“Genesis” By Sebastiao Salgado Has Arrived

It’s getting harder and harder to find the ends of the Earth…

Fortunately, a near-septuagenarian Brazilian humanist has returned from the ends of the Earth with hundreds of SD cards full of glorious shards of the light that falls upon it…

We have been awaiting the arrival of Genesis by Sebastiao Salgado ever since we received a promotional postcard, around 2008, from his American gallerist, Peter Fetterman, depicting a Dinka cattle herd.  We were familiar with Salgado — in fact we owned An Uncertain Grace, in which we first saw those pictures of the Brazilian gold miners at work in their pit, a photojournalist’s image that combined a little bit of Dante with Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom.  We knew he was a great photographer, but we didn’t yet grasp his conceptual breadth, which is staggering, or the depth of his humanity, which is an inspiration.  Somehow, a picture of an African cattle herder opened a door onto the project that Salgado was calling Genesis, which is nothing less than, in Salgado’s words, “a visual ode to the majesty and fragility of the planet.”

From that first glimpse of this project, we were hooked.  And something in our life had changed.

In part through the images available on Peter Fetterman’s walls and website, in part through the updates that, like a 19th Century chronicle available from magazines and newspapers, kept a global audience apprised of the progress Salgado was making  along the way  — you can practically see the globe with the dotted line marking where he was in any given month — we came to view, oh, 50 or so of the images he was amassing from his travels north and south.

By New Years Day 2013, we’d seen, we’re guessing,  maybe six dozen of the photographs that Salgado captured over the course of his seven-year journey around the globe, preserving in digital black and white those parts, and people, least despoiled by what Herman Melville called “snivelization.”  And then, a few months back,through Peter’s generosity, we were able to meet Salgado when he came to Washington to show more of what would be included in the massive museum installations that launched just last month in London, and expand in a week or so to Toronto.  After that slide show, we’d seen another, perhaps, 100 of the images, bringing the total of what we’d seen to somewhere near 200.  Many of these images were instantly iconic, such as the photograph of Alaska’s Brooks Range, captured on the cover the book depicted above.  Beyond individual images, the shear breadth of what he had accomplished was massive and staggering.  And even then we had no idea, even then there were vast aspects of Genesis that we’d yet to see.

Even having had years to prepare for Genesis in its entirety, we still, tonight, were stunned to see the work in its entirety, more than 500 pages of images from Kamchatka to Antarctica, Angel Falls to Bryce Canyon, from those Dinkas in Africa to the sheathed-penis tribesman of West Papua’s Jayawijaya mountain range.  Salgado’s “hymn to the planet,” captured fully in this stunningly gorgeous Taschen book, reveals him to be a one-man National Geographic Society, hacking his way for 55 days across the wilds of Ethiopia, spending time with the reindeer-herding Nenets of Siberia, communing with whales off the Valdes Peninsula, being dropped off to fend for himself in ANWR, so as to catch the migration of the caribou.  To say the man went everywhere to joyously capture that half of the planet that he attests is still wild understates things.

Salgado is nearly 70, and yet over the course of just the past decade, he’s withstood hardship for months at a time in order to produce this work. Some have criticized the divine grandiosity in his naming of the project, but while he’s not God, the prodigiousness of his energy that enabled him to capture in such gorgeous images the world that he, perhaps uniquely, has seen in this entirety has given him a certain superhuman aura.

In the days, months, and years ahead, you will hear much about Salgado’s Genesis.  The publication of the book is an epochal moment both in terms of photography and, we’d venture, conservation.  You would do well to buy it, reasonably priced right now on a value basis, to see what the most accomplished photographer of our age has brought back, back from the ends of the earth.  Not explicitly to chronicle things before they disappear, but with optimism, and joy in what’s still there.

One Response to ““Genesis” By Sebastiao Salgado Has Arrived”

  1. […] in Salgado, here's a short write up I posted this morning on the "Genesis" book: “Genesis” By Sebastiao Salgado Has Arrived | Tulip Frenzy __________________ http://johnbuckley100.zenfolio.com/ […]

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