Sebastiao Salgado's Genesis project

The State of Amazonas, Brazil, 2009

The name Sebastiao Salgado is one that is associated with long term documentary photography projects resulting in exquisite black and white photographs, lovingly crafted from the camera to the finished exhibition print.

For the past seven years he has been working on a series entitled Genesis, a collection of photographic essays that look at the landscape, wildlife and human communities that live with what he describes as their ancestral values.

A selection of pictures from the project, which is due to be completed by 2012, is now on show in the newly opened gallery in the east wing of Somerset House in Holborn. The space once inhabited by the tax office now forms a very pleasant environment and ideal gallery space for Salgado's work, glorious black and white photographs of forests bathed in that heavenly light that seems to follow Salgado on all his assignments. .

Waura Indians fishing in the Piulaga Waura Indians fishing in the Piulaga during the Kuarup, a rite to celebrate the dead.

Other pictures show some of the tribal communities he spent three months living with as they moved from camp to camp through the forest. He describes them as "living in a very pure way," and his pictures of their daily lives and ancient rituals provide a glimpse of the past that Salgado is attempting to protect.

The State of Amazonas, Brazil, 2009

His photographs attempt to make us realise both what could be lost, and the fact that it has not yet all been destroyed. As he says, there is plenty to save.

"People destroy the forest not because they are bad, but because they are not informed," Salgado said. "Working closely with the people of the land is very important, to achieve equilibrium, we must fight to protect it."

As well as his photographic work for the past 20 years or so, together with his wife Lelia, he has worked to restore a small part of the rainforest in Brazil through the Instituto Terra, and he is also an ambassador for Unicef.

His epic project Workers, which was published in 1993, brought worldwide acclaim, and a few critics, yet there are few who work on such a global scale and are able to combine a photographic eye that is second to none, alongside such passion for the subject. So if you are in the area, pop along to Somerset House and see the pictures as they are meant to be seen, as prints.

The State of Amazonas, Brazil, 2009

The current exhibition is a joint one with photographer Per-Anders Pettersson who travelled to Acre in north-west Brazil with the actress Gemma Arterton to highlight the work there by Sky Rainforest Rescue which is a three-year partnership between Sky and the WWF.

Amazon is now on show at Somerset House, London, until 4 December 2011.

Phil Coomes Article written by Phil Coomes Phil Coomes Picture editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Is it art? Does it matter. The mans work is top rate, but it's the story behind his subject matter that is the really important issue. If we carry on treating nature as we do in the future you might have to use CGI to produce such images. Art or journalism? I guess you would have to ask yourself if you could live with it hanging on your wall, I certainly could.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    eviltuba misses the point completely. Redfox is spot on, pressing the button on a digital camera is not the creation of art. It is the image composition, exposure, mood etc that the artist has created and seen in his eye through the lens that is the art. The digital camera and sensor merely records that moment, in fact, as all cameras have done since the early C19th.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Salgado's work is sublime, a true artist and photographer. One of the comments above is sad, 'eviltuba', if it was a easy as pressing a button. Salgado has an artist's eye and a poet's imagination, a true genius.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    With all my due respect for Mr. Salgado's work which is very unique and outstanding, his statement that "People destroy the forest not because they are bad, but because they are not informed" is false and naive. According to the World Bank Report "Causes of Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon" 91% of land deforested since 1970 is used for livestock pasture. And this is done by major producers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    At last Mr Coomes, some really good photography. These were a pleasure to look through. And that, eviltuba, is the difference. Anyone can take photographs, very few can take photographs that uplift people.

    It's a bit like the difference between Tracey Emin and real artists...


Comments 5 of 32



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