There is nothing like the work of a photojournalist to ground you in your present moment and Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado’s work indeed does this, and then transports you to a world far beyond the confines of your own.
Genesis opened at C/O Berlin in April and offers an astonishing perspective on the true diversity of our planet and how little of its entirety we actually experience. Curated by his daughter in law, Lélia Wanick Salgado, this collection of 245 photographs focuses on those parts of the planet that are largely untouched by human endeavour.
Salgado is based in Paris and started work as a photojournalist in 1973. He is highly regarded for many of his long term projects, and Genesis is considered the third in a collection that follows his themes of large scale epic documentations of global perspectives. His reporting on global industry in Workers and population movement in Migrations came first and his images from the Serra Pelada gold mine in Brazil are considered his most famous to date. Salgado made 32 journeys over 8 years across 5 different regions to document the last untouched parts of the planet for the project that would become Genesis.
The greatest revelation that came from this project was that 47% of the planet – almost half of the earth – still exists today in its original state. The exhibition is divided into 5 regions – Planet South (Galapagos Islands, Antarctic and the South Atlantic), Sanctuaries (Madagascar, Sumatra and West-Papua), Africa (Okavango River, Sudan), Northern Spaces (Arctic Circle, the Kamchatka Peninsula and Alaska) and Amazônia Amazon, Negro, Juruá and Cuminapanema Rivers).
The subjects that come from these regions are of course instantly mesmerizing and the images are artistically stunning. With skilled interplay between light and shade, deep, stark, contrasting lines and depths, and soft atmospheric approaches, almost every photograph creates an intimacy that gives the viewer a deep connection with the subject. Capturing the lives and patterns of animals, as well as documenting tribal life of humans, Salgado’s stories encompass humanity and nature in its rawest form, from islands to deserts, jungles to icy peninsulas. However the wonder at Salgado’s unwaverable commitment to his goal is evident in almost every image. Sheer ice cliffs, remote villages, hostile arctic environments, and deep jungles are his locations and access alone must have been one of his primary technical challenges.
Berlin is the first place in Germany to host the exhibition and many will attend on the back of seeing the Oscar nominated film Salt of the Earth on the life and work of the artist. The documentary was released in 2014 and is a collaboration between Wim Wenders and Salgado’s son Juliano. There is also a great TED Talk given by Salgado that is well worth watching. C/O Berlin presents Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis at the fantastic space that is Amerika Haus, at Hardenbergstraße 22-24 (about 600 metres from the hotel). Admission is €10 and the exhibition is open daily from 11am to 8pm.