Born in Brazil and based in Paris, Sebastião Salgado is known for his stunning work at the intersection of documentary, photojournalism, and fine art photography. In the exhibition Sebastião Salgado: Landscapes 2004-2018 a rare glimpse of his landscape photography is on view, and it should not be missed. The work offers a peek into a forthcoming project on Brazil’s Amazon Rain Forest designed to raise awareness around environmental threats to the region, as well as work from his celebrated Genesis series.
In the 1990s Salgado and his wife, Lélia Wanick Salgado, began advocacy work on the restoration of a section of the Atlantic Forest in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil, which subsequently led to the land’s designation as a nature reserve in 1998. They also launched the Instituto Terra on the reserve and a program dedicated to reforestation, conservation, and environmental education. That same level of commitment, appreciation, respect, wonder, and awe resonates in the photographs on view, presenting the natural world in stunningly new states of beauty and power.
The large scale images, fortunately, have room to breathe in Sundaram Tagore’s Chelsea gallery space. They are epic in their profundity and will more than likely make anyone fall in love with nature. Throughout his career, Salgado’s work has focused on the impact of globalization on both humans and the planet. Vanishing landscapes and ways of life, as well the human condition, are often eloquently explored leaving a visceral impact on viewers. With his landscape work, one hopes that it will also influence viewers to take action on climate change in their own small way, every day.
Due to Salgado’s exquisite mastery of formal qualities – composition, texture, and scale to name a few – the photographs almost feel three-dimensional. Their emotional and energetic charge echoes that of nature at its most vital. Under Salgado’s direction, crashing waves, sloping sand dunes, gliding birds, moving clouds, swaying vegetation, and strikingly organic rock formations, speak loudly of the mystery of creation. The interplay of earth and sky is optimized in several images through water reflections, active landscapes, and vast skies given texture by shapely clouds. Asymmetry and symmetry seem to merge into a unique visual language spoken through naturally formed shapes, lines, jagged edges, swirls, and movement dependent on the wind.
While Salgado’s landscapes offer a stunningly beautiful and unusual take on planet earth, they also speak of urgency around the mystery, inspiration and natural resources we could lose, imminently, as citizens of this planet.