As one of the most celebrated living photographers, Sebastião Salgado has achieved renown for his epic, long-term photographic projects. They have taken him throughout the world to many of its most isolated, inaccessible, and seldom documented places where he artfully explores aspects of humanity and the natural world. Salgado’s first notable bodies of work were documenting and exploring the universal human condition and how people are affected by socio-economic conditions through the two landmark projects Workers and Migrations. Most recently for his ambitious project Genesis, he has focused on an uplifting investigation of the planet in its most natural and primordial state that has been untouched by modern man. This is the result of eight-years of expeditions to rediscover the animals, the people, and the landscapes that have so far escaped the imprint of modern society and was conceived as a potential path to humanity’s rediscovery of itself in a pristine natural world. Salgado has said when he conceived of the idea for Genesis he believed there were few locations left that remained as they had before the rise of man, but was later relieved and astounded to discover the incredible diversity of places still left intact.
One notable example is the Brooks Range in northeastern Alaska where the mountains are sliced by deep river valleys, glaciers, and a variety of microclimates collide. Rising to almost 10,000 feet, it is part of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge which is the largest refuge in the United States. The awe-inspiring aerial image “Brooks Range, Alaska, USA” seems to encapsulate the grandeur of a primordial genesis of the planet visualizing the formation of valleys with shimmering rivers twisting through the seemingly newly created mountains that recede into a background with innumerable snow-topped peaks. In one corner, dramatically lit clouds and rain slanting to the ground create a glistening river with preciously elemental water flowing through the moody landscape. Salgado has said of Alaska and this image:
“The light in Alaska in particular is so beautiful. So beautiful! Such incredible light. And when I have shapes in the sky, when there are incredible clouds, you know, with this shock of weather, this very hot weather fighting against the very cold weather all over these highlands there, you have most daring fight with half the snow, half the rain, half the sunshine, all this light, mixed inside the pictures. I was incredibly lucky. It was a photographer’s paradise.”
Images of Alaska along with other photographs encompassing the planet from the Genesis project were recently shown in a critically acclaimed exhibition at the International Center for Photography in New York City. The documentary, Salt of the Earth, chronicling Salgado’s travels was also nominated for an Academy Award this year. The Genesis project, along with Salgado’s charity Instituto Terra and his role as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, are dedicated to showing the beauty of our planet and preserving it for future generations.