I love photography. I love photography for its power to contain what we feel in the stillness of a single moment. I particularly like black and white photography. I like it because by removing colour the photographer forces the viewer to focus on the details, on what is happening in the scene, on the content of the photograph. And no one does this better than one of my favourite photographers, Sebastian Salgado.
Salgado began as a social documentary photographer focusing on the people and societies, particularly that of the poor across the globe. But according to the following video he had seen too much violence, too much bloodshed, that so affected him that he literally became sick, mentally and physically.
At the advice of his doctor he had to stop putting himself through such torture. As a viewer we can close the books and stop viewing the photographs that he captures. We only have the moments of silence that he shows us, ones which we control as viewers. But for Salgado the tragedy is a streaming memory that does not stop with the shutter. It was for this reason that he gave up photography and returned to his hometown, to his family in Brazil.
The back story is that he grew up on a farm with his seven sisters that once was covered by 50 percent of rainforest. There they had abundant food needing only to go once a year on a 60-day round-trip journey to sell their cattle. But when he returned after his long absence as a globe trotting photographer what he had found was that almost all the rainforest had been destroyed, that the land had been left bare. This caused the rainwater to run off the land much quicker than is needed leading to desertification of the land (his analogy was that of his bald head which dries in seconds). And it was with this discovery back home that he began to work to reforest his land he had now inherited.
Salgado after this period in his life he had taken up his camera again and shifted his lens towards nature and animals. His message hasn’t change because he is still concerned about how we can arrive as a species. Only now he is doing this from the point of view of how we need to live in harmony with land and nature.
Salt of the Earth (page in Japanese) is showing in Hiroshima right now.
The Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition is run by the Natural History Museum in London and the BBC Wildlife Magazine. This year’s overall winner is Steve Winter for his photo capture of the rare snow leopard.
Photos from competition will be exhibited at the Museum from the end of October 2008 to April 2009.
The Prix Pictet is a global prize for photography aimed at highlighting the problems of climate change. This year’s theme was “water”. The 100,000 Swiss Franc (over USD 88,000) prize was awarded to Benoit Aquim for his series of photographs on the human-induced desertification in China.
The BBC also has a nice slide show with commentary on other photographs and short listed photographers.