Residual Bitumen

Beautiful Destruction – Alberta Oil/Tar Sands

Climate Change.   Fossil Fuel.  The Dilemma of Our Time.

Canada’s boreal forest.   The largest industrial project on earth.

the book

The Book
Book cover of Beautiful Destruction photo book of Alberta oil sands or tar sands
The Photographs
Construction Crane at Exxon Mobil Kearl oil sands
The Essayists
Architect-Theatre's Layne-Coleman-Georgina-Beaty-Jonathan-Seinen-Greg-Gale-250x167-med
The Media & Reviews
“Helbig’s photos are not riddles; they are literal representations of the landscape, but in them he finds patterns, both natural and man-made, that toy with the eye of the viewer.”
Ottawa Citizen

“Louis Helbig captures some of our most barren and desolate landscapes and turns them into bold, geometric art.”
Maclean's Magazine

“Louis Helbig has been photographing Canada’s oil sands mining for several years, with fascinating results”
New York Times

“Shot through acclaimed aerial photographer Louis Helbig’s lens, a swirling black and tan bitumen slick becomes strangely reminiscent of an abstract expressionist painting.”
Toronto NOW

More about Beautiful Destruction Coffee Table Art Book

the Beautiful Destruction book
Product Photos 008 1500 Beautiful Destruction is a 300-page coffee-table art photography book of the oil/tar sands in Northern Alberta, Canada published by Rocky Mountain Books.

The book’s 232 photographs were from the artist’s small plane, as the tar/oil sands emerged from political and environmental obscurity to becoming ground-zero for the dilemma of our time: climate change in the face of a global, carbon based, petroleum driven economy.

Beautiful Destruction takes the reader directly to the massive bitumen mines, tailings ponds, steam piping and refineries set within the boreal forests of northern Canada. The oil/tar sands are where the controversial pipelines at the centre of the climate change debate in America originate.

More about Beautiful Destruction


Purchase Limited Edition Prints & Beautiful Destruction book
Regular Book $75

Regular Book $75

Purchase autographed or personally inscribed copies of Beautiful Destructionbook on this website or at quality bookstores. $75

Limited numbered edition (only 350 copies) of Beautiful Destruction is available exclusively from Louis Helbig. $150

Purchase Autographed Book

Numbered Book $150


Numbered books may be purchased with a limited edition photographic print. $500

Numbered, limited edition prints of various sizes are available from $175 (11x16in) to $3,500 (40x60in) directly from Louis Helbig or from fine art galleries featuring his work.

Order Books or Art Prints

Louis Helbig
Louis Helbig has an eclectic background. He competed internationally on Canada’s national nordic ski team, flies bush planes, holds an MSc from the London School of Economics, and has worked as a cabinet advisor, an economist, and a university lecturer. He left Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs in 2006 to become an artist.

Louis Helbig flying Luscombe aircraft over Alberta

Louis Helbig flying his plane


Beautiful Destruction is about engaging, not alienating. In Canada, it’s helping defuse a highly polarized, divisive issue and create space for substantive discussion of the oil/tar sands. Internationally, it’s raising awareness of a massive, industrial project in the Canadian wilderness at the centre of one of the dilemmas of our time:  grappling with the reality of climate change versus a petroleum driven global economy.

sixteen diverse essays
Chief Allan Adam

Chief Allan Adam

The book takes advantage of the public space created when art engages the imagination of the viewer. Beautiful Destruction takes that anunprecedented step further, expanding this public space with 16 essays by prominent individuals from environment and industry, from local to international, to share their insights, ideas and opinions about the oil/tar sands.

This is the first fair forum on the tar/oil sands. Helbig gave each writer the same space and complete editorial control over their own contribution.

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben

The essays, like the photographs, reflect the myriad of complexities and contradictions inherent to any human endeavour, especially one as large as the oil/tar sands. Some are particularly Canadian: grappling with First Nations treaty rights, the cultural impact of boom towns or the pitfalls of exporting a raw resource to another country for processing. The underlying tension, however, of grappling with the reality of climate change versus a carbon based global economy is the crucial dilemma of our time.  MORE about Essay Contributors

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