Brazilian insights into the state of our planet

If you missed Sebastião Salgado’s photography exhibition Genesis at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, the Polka Galerie (Paris) offers you one last chance to discover his outstanding work in France. Born in Aimorés (Brazil) in 1944, Sebastião Salgado began his career as an economist. Upon graduating from the Universities of São Paolo and Vanderbilt, he joined the London International Coffee Organization. In 1973, he abandoned his occupation and turned to documentary photography which led him to explore every corner of our planet―over 100 countries―with great insight, perception and a vision.

Brazilian president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva receives the book “Trabalhadores” as a gift from photographer Sebastião Salgado (left). / Source: Agência Brasil. Credit: Wilson Dias/ABr. This image is protected under a specific licence.

In his early work (1975-2000), Salgado evokes the paradoxes of modernity through a contrasted mirror of human vulnerability in less-developed nations. His thematic portraits illustrate the challenges faced by communities living on the fringe of modernity: Sahel, l’Homme en Détresse (1984-1985) highlights the ravages of drought and famine in Africa; Other Americas (1977-1984) depicts the persistence of pastoral and indigenous cultures in Latin America; La Main de l’Homme (1986-1992) pictures manual workers from 26 countries; and Migrations (1994-1999) is a reflection on migratory problems and their global impact.

The culmination of Salgado’s works is Genesis, a dazzling collection of impressions of our planet’s most pristine areas, wilderness unspoiled by human development and its dwellers, both animals and men. A privileged visitor of the last authentic realms of nature, Salgado witnessed and immortalized some of their jewels, thus adopting a resolutely positive approach. “It isn’t true that our planet is lost. We must work hard to preserve it” said he, with “we” being the most important word of all as the course of our evolution indeed lies in our own hands. In this respect, the Brazilian artist acts as a citizen of the world, pointing out threats that concern each and every one of us, with a special eye for beauty and great talent to reproduce “what we must hold and protect”.

The Polka Galerie offers a retrospective on Sebastião Salgado’s work until Genesis, including a few pieces from the latter. Originally scheduled until January 14, the exhibition has been exceptionally prolonged until February 26. One drawback: the number of pictures has been reduced to some 30 photographs for the remaining time as room is needed for other exhibitors. The event nevertheless remains meaningful and should not be missed.

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