The Amazon of Salgado seeks to save a world
Sebastião Salgado, the 77-year-old Brazilian-born Parisian photographer who travels the world and whose work often invokes social activism on behalf of the exploited poor workers, indigenous peoples, the consequences of climate change, ecological devastation and the disappearance of nature. world, is exhibiting his latest epic Brazilian rainforest project “Amazonia” at the Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica (on view until November 13, 2021) – Salgado’s premier global gallery for the past 30 years.
Amazonia is the result of some nine years and 48 journeys, sometimes spending months at a time to capture the landscape – the rainforest, mountains and rivers, as well as the people, many of whom remain untouched by modern civilization. Salgado does his job with great respect. “When we come to work with these tribes, we come home,” he says.
Peter Fetterman agrees that seeing the pristine forests and indigenous peoples photographed by Salgado is in itself a call to preserve a world that threatens to be lost. Or as Salgado himself puts it: “My wish, with all my heart, with all my energy, with all the passion that I have, is that in 50 years this collection of images will not look like a recording of a lost world. Amazonia must live.
Salgado’s images have become so famous and iconic that it’s hard to believe he hasn’t always championed the beauty of remote places and indigenous peoples. Salgado’s first career was as an economist (he holds a doctorate from the University of Paris) for the International Coffee Association and the World Bank. When he turned to photography full time in 1973, he was almost 30 years old. He started his career as a press photographer, photographing both color and black and white.
Salgado’s first big success as a photographer is one he doesn’t frequently talk about or exhibit – Salgado turned out to be one of the few photographers present during President Ronald Reagan’s assassination attempt. The photos from the Salgado event sold with great success around the world.
Nevertheless, Salgado did not remain a press photographer. Instead, he decided he preferred to work in black and white and design his own projects and assignments, which he has done for the past three decades, ultimately moving from film to digital.
The images in Amazonia are pristine and have a timeless quality. You might imagine that you were looking at a print by Edward Curtis or Ansel Adams. Salgado’s images are remarkable in many ways, whether it is the interplay of light and dark in his work (Salgado said he loves the Dutch masters), or the composition of his images, or the play between the foreground and the background. Sometimes it’s how he captures the natural harmonies of a landscape, or it’s his ability to photograph people unconsciously. In each of Salgado’s images, we feel aware of a world he is privileged to access.
Salgado’s activism doesn’t stop with a photo, or the sale of an image. Salgado, his wife and son and their foundation, Instituto Terra, have played a central role in reforestation of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil, having turned 17,000 acres into a nature reserve and planted more than 4 million trees during of the last decades.
“Sebastião Salgado is more than one of the greatest master photographers in the history of this medium,” said Peter Fetterman recently. “He is also a force of nature with a mission to help explain the third world to the first world and awaken us all to our social responsibility to protect the Earth we live in and respect our common humanity.
The exhibit at the Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica is up until November 13. There is a special opening reception with KCRW and 1st Dibs this Saturday September 25 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.. As part of this exhibit, Taschen Books has released a beautiful book ($ 150), as well as a large-format Sumo edition ($ 3,500) that comes with its own stand designed by Renzo Piano, and a Sumo Collector’s edition ($ 8,500 ) which comes with a choice of 4 prints. However, if you purchase the book from the Peter Fetterman Gallery, you will receive a special copy that includes an ex-libris plaque signed by Salgado.