The Salt of the Earth
The attraction of good photography is not so much what is being shown, but the way in which it is being seen. Sebastião Salgado has seen much in his lifetime, from vast gold mines crawling with desperate men, to exploded oil rigs in the Middle East – from starved bodies piled up in Africa’s wastelands, to the lithe, tough bodies of the indigenous Zo’é tribe in the depths of the Amazon rainforest. His photography reveals the brutality of life’s raw, natural state. He captures humankind at its most vulnerable, yet highlights the indomitable spirit and relentless resources that man is naturally endowed with.
The Salt of the Earth (Le Sel de la Terre) is a portrait of Salgado’s life through the lens of fellow photographer Wim Wenders, captured with the help of Salgado’s son, Juliano. The film is expertly arranged, with off-centre, black-and-white shots complementing Salgado’s compelling commentary, and frequent interludes of home videos and personal photos to bring it all back home. Sound, speech, lighting and texture come together to create a beautiful ode to one man and his craft.
Salgado’s unique vision is rooted in his training as an economist. His photography reveals the commerce involved in daily life – how, as a community, humans work with the resources they are provided with, be it each other or the natural forces around them. All needs (sex, food, materials, space and freedom) are products to trade. The wonder of this basic element of human life seemed to initially attract Salgado, but as his photography career bloomed, he gravitated towards a more political angle. His work on Rwanda’s genocide in the early 1990s is sharp, blunt, stark and hard, yet the accuracy and artistry of it reveal how Salgado’s vision goes forth unimpaired, even in the toughest of environments.
Ending without a doubt on Salgado’s most impressive project (Genesis), The Salt of the Earth leaves a bitter taste in the back of the throat as the history of the world finishes its reel. Genesis is, in Salgado’s words, “a love letter to the planet”. This film is a love letter to not only the great romantic behind that letter, but also to photography itself, and to a history being made timeless.
The Salt of the Earth is released nationwide on 17th July 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Salt of the Earth here: