These 31 aerial images showing the salt pans in the Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India, were taken during a ten-day shooting expedition by Edward Burtynsky. They present the pans, wells, and vehicle tracks as abstract, geometric, painterly patterns: subtly colored rectangles crossed by grids of gestural lines; and yet the reality behind the ironic beauty of Burtynsky’s pictures is a harsh one. Each year 100,000 poorly paid Agariya workers toil in the pans, extracting over a million tons of salt. Furthermore, receding groundwater levels, combined with debt, diminishing market values as well as a lack of governmental support, threaten the future of this 400-year-old tradition and those lives dependent upon it. “The images in this book are not about the battles being fought on the ground,” Burtynsky wrote. “Rather, they examine this ancient method of providing one of the most basic elements of our diet; as primitive industry and as abstract two-dimensional human marks upon the landscape.”

Salt Pans by Edward Burtynsky, Steidl, $60.00.

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