Genesis, by Sebastiao Salgado
I wonder if the people staring 10 mins at a tree photographed by Sebastiao Salgado, would have seen the tree itself if they had passed by it, or if it would be invisible to them as any other tree.
Do we artists and photographers have this mission? Sure.
Some time ago, walking with friends, I saw an ordinary tree (as if trees were ordinary) and looking at it I said: “such a beautiful tree that one there”. My friends looked at them, looked at me… and we kept walking. They found the tree like any other. Like any other invisible tree, the ones we pass by on any day walking around. Without them noticing I took a photo of it, and later on, after almost no editing, I showed the photograph and heard: “that is such a beautiful tree!! Where is it?” This is that tree that you found ordinary when you saw it in real.
Of course this can happen also with a portrait of someone. Maybe that ordinary person is invisible to most, and we just get the best focus on a look or angle and the person becomes “interesting”. Without photoshop, just raw photo.
Sebastiao Salgado got us used to see the horrors of slavery, the inhuman conditions of the coalmines’ workers, the oil spils and so many other human or natural disasters… Some other photographers get us used to see the inhuman life of homeless, the rejected Roma (by Kieran Kesner) , the inhuman conditions of life of some disabled or ill people (by Jim Mortram). Which, in most cases we don’t see: they become invisible. Can you describe the face of that homeless woman who lives next to you? Did you ever looked into her eyes, or is she invisible – because uncomfortable – to you? Maybe if I take a portrait of her you wouldn’t even recognise her, and you would say: “what a great portrait!” or “what a beautiful face! I wonder where or how does she lives!”
Maison Européenne de Photographie opened an overwhelming exhibition of Sebastiao Salgado, with the magnificent title: Genesis.
If you come to Paris until 5 of January 2014, you really can’t miss it, just don’t go on a Wednesday after 5pm just because it’s free: it is worth paying to avoid not the large queue, but the crowd inside. Go, but go with time and relaxed mind because the Genesis will overwhelm you. Not because you will have 4 floors of exhibition, but the works, one by one will make you stop and stare, from West Papua, Indonesia to the Arctic or from Madagascar to Argentina.
“Genesis is a quest for the world as it was, as it was formed, as it evolved, as it existed for millennia before modern life accelerated and began distancing us from the very essence of out being. It is a journey to the landscapes sea scopes animals and peoples that have so far escaped the long reach of today’s world. And it is testimony that our planet still harbours vast and remote regions where nature reigns in silent and pristine majesty.
Such wonders are to be found in polar circles and tropical rain forests, in wise savannahs and scorching deserts, on glacier covered mountains and solitaire islands. Some regions are too cold ar arid for all but the hardiest forms of life, others are home to animals and ancient tribes whose survival depends on their isolation. Together they form a stunning mosaic of nature in all its unspoiled grandeur.
Through these photographs, genesis aspires to show and to share this beauty. it is a visual tribute to a fragile planet that we all have a duty to protect.”
(Léila Wanick Salgado, curator of the exhibition)
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