Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Toward the End, Genesis

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

Toward the End, Genesis

Article excerpt

The Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado has never been the kind of artist who shrinks from big issues. During his 35-year career, he has specialized in long-term, self-assigned projects during which he spends years traveling thousands of miles to document a single theme. Workers, a seven-year project completed in 1992, focused on laborers in 26 countries. Migrations, which he started in 1993 and finished in 1999, examined the vulnerability of refugees, economic migrants, and other displaced people in some 40 nations. The critical and popular success of these collections has made Salgado something of a photojournalist rock star. His meticulously composed black-and-white photographs--often with the subject backlit, so as to sharpen shapes and heighten emotion--carry an almost unbelievable drama. Many of his images have become icons.

Now, Salgado is turning his camera to the subject of the natural world--or what's left of it. His latest project, called Genesis, is an effort to document the pristine vestiges of the planet. He started on Genesis in 2004 and expects to have it finished by 2012. When completed, the project will tell the stories of 20 unique places that have somehow avoided the mark of human development.

Salgado has told interviewers that the name Genesis isn't intended to convey a religious meaning. But in reviewing the body of his work, it can be easy to perceive biblical archetypes. The oil workers in Kuwait, for example, who passively endure a rain of petroleum, seem to have the patience of Job. …

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