There is a largely common argument about whether or not photography constitutes as an art. To me, photography is undoubtedly an art – but it is a different kind of art. Photography is a powerful medium used to communicate both social issues and personal struggles. It is a realistic form of expression that appeals to the viewer by using beauty, reality, blacks and whites, emotion, logic, honesty and rawness. Photography is vast and empowering; it discusses every social issue known to man, every emotion ever felt and every curiosity ever pondered upon.
The work I am going to talk about in this post is one of the most beautiful and powerful projects I have ever seen. The first time I saw Sebastião Salgado’s Genesis was at a museum, where his pieces were blown up to be as big as the walls. However, looking again at this work on my small 14” computer does little to diminish the extreme vastness and detailed beauty of the images.
If you are familiar with the term “Genesis”, you would know that it is the title of the first book of the Bible, which includes the stories of creation of the world and Noah’s Ark. Salgado’s interpretation and usage of the word “Genesis” is similar yet different. His documentation of untouched planet earth through landscape shots, seascape shots and shots of indigenous peoples show how the world would have looked just after creation.
In order to raise awareness about the pressing issue of climate and environmental change, Salgado documents a world untouched by factories, industrialization, money and people. He documents a world fairly unknown to most viewers as he explores South America, Africa, sanctuaries and the most Southern and Northern spaces on our planet. Salgado’s attempt to capture the world in its original state is “a quest for the world as it was, as it formed, as it evolved, as it existed for millennia before modern life accelerated and began distancing us from the very essence of our being,” says Lelia Salgado, “It is testimony that our planet still harbors vast and remote regions where nature reigns in silent and pristine majesty”. His TED talk even further explains his motivation behind the project, and his experience behind the lens.
His images of nature possess a power I have not seen in any other artist. Not only are the images viewed in awe, but the drastic differences between the world portrayed in Salgado’s work and the everyday world of the viewer kindles or lights a passion to respect and be at peace with nature instead of destroying it. It harbors the concept that the world is strong and silent; alone but incredibly powerful. Not only has this, but the term ‘Mother Nature’ comes to life through his work. Society has taught us to respect and honor our mothers. Salgado asks us to respect and honor our wise Mother Earth; in some images the viewer even cowers under the extreme strength, power and fearlessness that nature clearly has.
Salgado’s documentation of indigenous people possess a different power. This power is softer and more relatable. It is incredible to see these people live with nature and not against it. Instead of changing nature to best meet their needs, they give and take. Their respect for nature is important in Salgado’s work because it sets an example for how we should live.
All in all, Salgado is, in every way, an artist. The work he produces is absolutely beautiful, but it is equally powerful and advocates for social change. Please check out his work (just google it – he doesn’t have a website).