Sebastião Salgado – Genesis at the Natural History Museum
The majority of us are accustomed to the development of our modern world, and in turn have become distanced from thinking of the Earth as it was in its state of genesis. Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado set out on an adventurous eight-year journey to rediscover this.
The photographer withstood tough conditions and reached the far corners of the world via exciting modes of transport to connect with and interpret through his lens the spirit of these unspoilt landscapes, their wildlife, and their indigenous peoples.
The exhibition is a collection of black and white photographs separated into sections according to their local focus. Planet South, for example, shows some scenes of the Antarctic Peninsula. One is particularly striking, depicting an iceberg filled with a white light that contrasts against the dark waves beneath. This gives it an effect of glowing, enhancing the mystical and charismatic structures of nature, as many of Salgado’s images do.
The monochrome works well to capture the solitary peacefulness of the settings, highlighting the mists that settle above mountain summits and the beams of sun that split through the skies over vast areas of land. It also magnifies the textures of the subjects, with examples including a marine iguana claw, the intricate detail of its scales beautifully focused. The combination renders the photos all the more intimate.
When staring into the glazed eyes of a Dinka man you find a moment of understanding with this stranger locked behind a frame. Although from the same planet, he has grown up in a completely different world. The experience provokes reflection on the message behind the exhibition, and a realisation of the basic emotions we share with nature when it is stripped back to its original state.
There’s a strong sense of honesty that comes from these dramatic and powerful shots. As Salgado said: “In Genesis, my camera allowed nature to speak to me. And it was my privilege to listen.”
Genesis will likely leave visitors questioning their perspective on the world, and pondering those parts of it from which we are so far removed. By conveying the wonders of Earth’s natural diversity, the exhibition may also lead to its audience doing more towards preserving their planet.
Photos: Lucia Hrdà