Sebastião Salgado Photo Exhibit Highlights Amazon Forest Destruction

photographer Sebastião Salgado

Photo and video Copyright  @ Cité de la Musique – Philarmonie de Paris, 2021

A new photo exhibit featuring the work of Sebastião Salgado featurs 200 black and white photos taken during his seven-year stay in the Amazonian forest. 

22 May 2021 | Philip Andrew Churm  | EuroNews

At the Philharmonie de Paris, two iconic artists have come together for a powerful exhibition.

Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado has over 200 black and white photos on display taken during his seven-year stay in the Amazonian forest. French musician Jean-Michel Jarre is providing the soundtrack.

Called “Amazônia” Salgado believes the purpose is not aesthetic, but political, particularly with regard to the Brazilian government.

Salgado references Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s letter to U.S. President Joe Biden, in which he promises to stop illegal deforestation in the Amazon.

“Mr. Bolsonaro’s government tells lie after lie,” he said. “He gives the impression that he is solving problems but he is telling lies to continue destroying.”

“After he made that statement at the big meetings organised by the president of the United States, this month has seen the biggest ever destruction of the Amazon forest. So this occurred after his promises, the destruction of the Amazon is happening at an incredible rate.”

Amazon exhibition strengthened by music soundtrack

The effect of Salgado’s photos is strengthened by his collaboration with musician Jean-Michel Jarre, who composed an original soundtrack especially for the exhibition.

Jarre explained some of the challenges to consider when composing the music.

“There were a lot of pitfalls in relation to a work like this. Trying not to fall into ambient music, not to fall into world music or into something too ethnic, but to account for something quite particular about forests,” he explained.

“All the sounds of a forest are sounds totally independent of each other i.e. the singing bird totally ignores the people passing by, the rain falling on the stone, etc. And yet, for the human ear, this forms an overall harmony, which is a harmony without orchestration but is a harmony of the forest.”

Salgado met with at least twenty indigenous communities while in the Amazon for this project.

The exhibition is on at the Philharmonie de Paris until 31st October.

Espace d’exposition – Philharmonie

For seven years, Sebastião Salgado immersed himself in far corners of the Brazilian Amazon, photographing the forest, rivers and mountains, and the people who live there. On his journeys deep into this realm—where the immense power of nature can be felt as in few places on earth—his photographer’s eye captured striking images, most being shown here to the public for the first time.

Accompanied by an original soundtrack—a ‘symphony-world’ created by Jean-Michel Jarre using concrete sounds from the forest—the exhibition also gives voice to the indigenous communities photographed, via their testimonies.

A photographic journey 

Following from his Genesis project, a photographic ode to the majestic beauty of the most remote regions of the world, Salgado embarked on a new series of expeditions to capture the incredible natural diversity of the Brazilian rainforest, and the ways of life of its inhabitants. Staying in remote villages for several weeks at a time, he was able to photograph ten ethic groups. Taken from small watercraft or from the air, Salgado’s images reveal the complex maze of tributaries that twist their way into the river, mountains reaching heights of 3 000 metres, and the skies so thick with moisture that there are rivers in the air.

A symphony-world 

The exhibition highlights not only the fragility of this ecosystem, but also the rich natural soundtrack of the Amazon, placing in dialogue Salgado’s arresting photos and a new musical composition by Jean-Michel Jarre, created specially for the exhibition using concrete sounds from the forest. The rustling of trees, animal calls, birdsong, the roar of water tumbling from mountain peaks, etc. collected in situ, in the rainforest, form a stunningly apt audio landscape to accompany Salgado’s journey. 

An inestimable heritage

Featuring 200 photographs, along with giant projections—scaled to the immensity of a natural realm like no other—the exhibition shines a spotlight on the fragility of the Amazonian ecosystem. It seeks to show that in the areas inhabited by indigenous groups, the ancestral guardians of these lands, the forest remains almost entirely undamaged. Documentary films allow visitors to hear from the people who live in the forest, in their own voices, and to gain a sense of their rich cultures. Through these powerful images, Sebastião and Lélia Salgado hope to prompt the thinking and actions urgently needed to protect this inestimable heritage of humanity.

Curator and scenographer: Lélia Wanick-Salgado 

Original musical soundtrack for the exhibition: Jean-Michel Jarre 

Exhibition in collaboration with the Geneva Ethnography Museum


Sebastiao Salgado and his wife Leila at Instituto Terra. (Photo courtesy of StandbyForMindControl.com)

MAY 06, 2020 | MATT HANSON | Daily Sabah

Writing with light: The salt of Sebastiao Salgado

SALT Online (screened) The Salt of the Earth,’ a documentary on the exquisite photography and world travels of Sebastiao Salgado, by German auteur Wim Wenders and the subject’s eldest son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado

The etymology of photography is roughly translated from Greek as writing with light. With the wisdom of the ancients, the Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado has trekked along the edges and heartlands of the globe in search of a voice that speaks through the rays of the sun. But it was only late in his career that he immersed himself in nature, having spent much of his life steeped in the social photography of work, war and migration.

That was after he returned to his country to find sources of healing in nature by reforesting Brazil, a towering achievement that by the end of the film had culminated in the planting of some 2.5 million trees in a formerly eroded territory. The project, Instituto Terra (or Earth Institute), is a demonstration of peace, justice and fraternity with all living things. For the old, battered photographer who had returned mournful from Rwanda, it restored his faith in humanity.

In many ways, his path in life came full circle with Instituto Terra. One of his earliest photography book projects, “Other Americas,” prompted Salgado to return to his beloved origins in Latin America. At the time, he was in Paris with a wife and son, having pursued his initial studies in economics at the behest of his father, who is portrayed in the film as a decent elderly man walking the lands around his bucolic home where he raised, clothed and fed his children.

His education in the field of industry and its relationship to various markets and international relations would remain an important reference point for Salgado, who ultimately changed his professional focus, took up a camera and ventured out for months on end away from his young family to live with the people. He had a singular talent for showing how communities on the ground were vulnerable to extractive macroeconomics.

Both sides of the lens

There are particularly effective moments of new filmmaking in “The Salt of the Earth” when depicting the relationship between the photographer and his subject. During his long stays in remote indigenous lands around the Andes mountains, for example, his face flows with shaggy facial hair. In his twilight years, when the film is being shot, all that is left of his youthful adventurer’s mien are two wispy eyebrows.

When he is out on an expedition shooting a polar bear by the Arctic Circle on a remote island in Siberia, the documentarians portray him and the bear as two figments of a single imagination. Salgado contemplatively strokes his eyebrows like a forest hermit might his beard and dozes off. Meanwhile, outside, the once mighty and ferocious bear slumps down to nap. They are both looking for each other, it would seem, by the mysterious compulsions of nature.

A still from 'The Salt of the Earth' by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. (Photo courtesy of Wim-Wenders.com)
A still from “The Salt of the Earth” by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. (Photo courtesy of Wim-Wenders.com)

Most of the film is essentially a slideshow of black-and-white stills. The work of Salgado alone speaks volumes. But like a double exposure, his face fades in and out, as his running commentary explains each passing frame in the soothing tones of his fluent French. They are each a passport to other worlds. And like his proud project, “Genesis,” which launched him into environmental photography, his every photograph casts off presumption by sheer experience.

More than a photographer whose work is predicated on capturing a transitory flux of perception on the surface of things, Salgado entrains the mind to see visual reflection for its power to immortalize sights, or as William Blake poeticized in the opening lines of “Auguries of Innocence,” “To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.”

Witness and artist

For his “Genesis” project, which took a more positive spin on the world by celebrating earthly existence, Salgado captures a scintillating portrait of a sea turtle on the Galapagos Islands. The being, he says, is a wise one, an authority over the world. Its eyes, which filter the light of an eon, may have seen Darwin himself. And transitioning to the claws of a large iguana, Salgado sees the hand of an armored medieval knight. The creature is his cousin, he affirms.

There were times when, bowled over by the total tragedy of atrocities before him – from Rwandan refugees who fled into Congolese forests near Goma, never to be seen again, or the Bosnians who had been exiled from a completely European way of life by acts of genocide – Salgado put down his camera and mourned. In his last days, he walks through the forests that he helped regenerate with his wife Leila. He is, finally, as Sufis say, in the world but not of it.

James Porteous

James Porteous is an author, photographer and researcher. Clipper Media News is a daily publicatioin featuring news and views you can use.

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