Thursday, December 16, 2004

Sebastião Salgado's Genesis

Many of you will know that Sebastião Salgado is embarking on the last of his great photographic projects. He calls it Genesis. It attempts to explore the world's purest and most protected areas - places, he says, that provide hope; places before humans conquered them. Working in conjunction with the UN, Unesco, Unep (United Nations Environment Project) and the Guardian over the next eight years, Salgado is attempting to remind us of what we still have and what we are in danger of losing.

Salgado has always been a political and engaged photographer working on an epic scale.
As Simon Hattenstone's profile notes, he
has given his life to long-term projects - workers, landless peasants, children, migrants. He took his camera where few photographers bothered or dared to go. His most famous photographs are of the garimpeiros, the mud-soaked prospectors who climbed up and down open-cast Brazilian gold mines, hoping against hope to find a nugget of gold in their buckets of dirt.
Genesis is being undertaken in the same spirit of engagement. In his own introduction to the project Salgado begins by noting how "
our relationship with nature - with ourselves - has broken down". He goes on to point out that "we live today on a planet that can die". The political bite comes in this passage that condemns a global political economy that has fostered this rapaciousness:
This is tragically mirrored in the current state of humanity. Immense wealth has been created through the labour of the entire world's population, but it is concentrated in the hands of all too few people, spawning tensions both within affluent societies and between a handful of rich countries and the rest of the world. We produce more food than ever and yet millions die of hunger. And in recent decades we have witnessed the worst acts of genocide of our history.
The Guardian is placing some of Salgado's photographs and his fieldnotes on the web. Those from Stage One:
The Galapagos are here. While those from Stage Two: Under the volcanoes, his moving rerturn to Rwanda, are here. Look at these images and feel awe.


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