Sebastião Salgado is a giant in the world of documentary photography. His projects are expansive and ambitious. His documentation of the human aspects of Africa was completed before Africa became fashionable. “Workers” – a seven year project – documented laborers in 26 countries. “Migrations” was a 6 year project documenting refugees and other displaced people.
Now comes “Genesis” – an ambitious 8 year project started in 2004. Salgado aims to photograph what is left of “pristine” nature – that which has escaped, or recovered from, the effects of human development, global warming and other human impact.
In many ways, this is a romantic project – a photographer seeking a past that is vanishing and presenting to the world a set of grand, pastoral images of a largely bygone world – from beautiful landscapes to seascapes to animals to ‘unspoilt’ indigenous tribes.
Will any of this have an effect?
In answering this question, Salgado is both optimistic and realistic. “I’m 100 percent sure that alone my photographs would not do anything. But as part of a larger movement, I hope to make a difference,” he said. “It isn’t true that the planet is lost. We must work hard to preserve it.”
Unlike many, Salgado has not taken the easy route of documenting human destruction of the planet, placing the Human as the enemy of the Natural. Rather, his aim is gently to persuade that it remains possible for us to move forward without destroying everything in our wake.