Day 120: The drama of photography

Sebastiao Salgado uses extreme methods to create his moving photography. His projects are epic in scale, taking a number of years to complete. Salgado immerses himself in an environment for a number of weeks before even taking a photograph. In this talk he displays some of these pictures with a story about how photography can create a discussion about our planet.
Salgado was born on a farm in Brazil in 1944. At the time, about 50% of the family’s land was covered in rainforest. Salgado describes it as a paradise, which he had to leave at the age of 15 to attend the second part of his high school.
In his thirties, Salgado became a photographer and started to examine the subjects that mattered to him. The images he displays include that of a refugee camp, a man holding an emancipated child, a family migrating across the desert. He was present in Rwanda to witness the aftermath of the genocide and lost faith in human nature. He worked for six years and visited 43 different countries to complete his project, ‘Migrations.’ Eventually he had to visit a Parisian doctor with an unexplained illness, described by the doctor as his body’s reaction to the deaths he’d seen.
Salgado’s next project came at an excellent time. He and his wife were left his parents land. Salgado was horrified to learn that the paradise he’d grown up in had been decimated in the name of development, leaving less than one percent covered in rainforest. Slowly they began to plant hundreds of trees, using photography to document their progress. He took on a new project, creating a record of people living in harmony with nature. Some of his works are shown in this talk; glaciers, African tribes, sea lions, mountainous beauty. The most important one shows the difference he made to the farm in less than seven years, transforming a barren area back to its former glory as a dense forest.
Photography can be an excellent medium to touch individuals and influence change. Though his latest project, Salgado hopes to create a discussion about our planet and what we have to keep there.


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