He was born in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1955. He studied Graphic Arts at Niagara College in Welland and then Photographic Arts (Media Studies Program) at Ryerson University in Toronto where he receieved his bachelor of Applied Arts in 1982. Since 1985, he works as a photographic artist, an entrepreneur, an educator and a lecturer. Burtynsky also founded Toronto Image Works, a darkroom rental facility, custom photo laboratory, digital imaging and new media computer-training centre for the art community of Toronto. He has had many solo exhibitions all over the world and has taken part in many group exhibitions and in large photographic venues. His photographic depictions of global industrial landscapes are included in the collections of over fifty major museums around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in California.