The Natural History Museum is currently hosting an epic exhibition of Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis. As the title suggests this is room upon room of stunning imagery from around the globe.
Sebastião Salgado is a unique photographer who has mastered landscape photography to the standard of Ansel Adams and yet his wildlife images could easily win Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Many would be happy to take a single image of this calibre in a lifetime, Genesis consists of over 200.
Salgado has traveled in over 100 countries for his photographic projects. In 2004, Sebastião Salgado began the project named “Genesis,” aiming at the presentation of the unblemished faces of nature and humanity. It consists of a series of photographs of landscapes and wildlife, as well as of human communities that continue to live in accordance with their ancestral traditions and cultures. This body of work is conceived as a potential path to humanity’s rediscovery of itself in nature.
You cannot help but be swept away by the feeling of awe his images conjure. Time and time again he produces photographs that seem impossible; impossible both in his ability to achieve such perfect composition but impossible that one man and a camera can record such feats of nature.
The exhibition presents us with the most remote and beautiful areas of the world, proof that they do exist but also a warning for the viewer to take heed, for many are in danger due to man’s recklessness. Unlike the work of Edward Burtynsky resource hungry corporations are never shown. Instead it is the glimpse of ourselves reflected in the glass that brings a pang of guilt. For we all, no matter how ‘green’ partake in the destruction of the natural world.
Salgado’s portraiture of remote tribes may rely on Exoticism – ‘ the charm of the unfamiliar’ but in this context they make sense. Glorious monochrome links these tribes to the landscape, wildlife, and the 32 countries giving each image an equal importance. The romanticism that black and white creates can also not be avoided, for Salgado is an environmentalist.
Most of these, besides appearing in numerous press publications, have also been presented in books such as Other Americas (1986), Sahel: l’homme en détresse (1986), Sahel: el fin del camino (1988), Workers (1993), Terra (1997), Migrations and Portraits (2000), and Africa (2007). He is particularly noted for his social documentary photography of workers in less developed nations. These photos reside in Paris.
Salgado was born on February 8, 1944 in Aimorés, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. After a somewhat itinerant childhood, Salgado initially trained as an economist, earning a master’s degree in economics from the University of São Paulo in Brazil.
He began work as an economist for the International Coffee Organization, often traveling to Africa on missions for the World Bank, when he first started seriously taking photographs. He chose to abandon a career as an economist and switched to photography in 1973, working initially on news assignments before veering more towards documentary-type work.
Salgado initially worked with the photo agency Sygma and the Paris-based Gamma, but in 1979 he joined the international cooperative of photographers Magnum Photos. He left Magnum in 1994 and with his wife Lélia Wanick Salgado formed his own agency, Amazonas Images, in Paris, to represent his work.
Touring exhibitions of this work have been, and continue to be, presented throughout the world. Longtime gallery director Hal Gould considers Salgado to be the most important photographer of the early 21st century, and gave him his first show in the United States.
Salgado has been awarded numerous major photographic prizes in recognition of his accomplishments. He is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States. He was awarded The Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) in recognition of a sustained, significant contribution to the art of photography in 1993.
Together, Lélia and Sebastião have worked since the 1990s on the restoration of a small part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. In 1998 they succeeded in turning this land into a nature reserve and created the Instituto Terra. The Instituto is dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation and environmental education.
Sabastiao Salgado: Genesis, Waterhouse Gallery, 11 April – 8 september 2013
Ticket prices £10 adults, £5 child and concession, £27 family
Free for Members, Patrons and children under 4
For more information: www.nhm.ac.uk