film March 25, 2015 By Sophie Mollart

postop313 Salgado + WendersWenders describes Salgado as an empathetic witness who avoided voyeurism and immersed himself in the lives of his subjects. The heaviness of much of his early work took a toll, and Salgado retired his camera for a period of time after baring witness to the crisis in Rwanda. “How much suffering can you cope with? He got to a point in Rwanda when he realized his work no longer had a function. He always believed his photography had the power to change situations, and in Rwanda he realized he was photographing something that was way beyond him. That realization stopped him, seeing hundreds and thousands of people perish by the wayside. His soul got so dark, so he put his camera down, as he didn’t want to remain a photographer with a cynical eye. He’s one of the few people I’ve met that really draw consequences out of their actions.”

Salgado returned this year with Genesis, a project 8-years in the making that considers the impact of the shifting climate. Celebrating natural forms, Genesis documents the untouched earth – the (surprisingly large) swathes of the globe undisturbed by human intervention. Salgado recently formed Instituto Terro, with his wife, Leila – an organization devoted to conservation, education and reforestation in his native Brazil. Juliano describes his father’s evolution with a kind of reverence: “The fact that he’s managed to evolve from it, I think there’s something really exemplary about that, and really powerful. There’s nothing naïve about wanting to change the world – it takes a lot of guts, a truthful gaze.”

Salgado is seemingly rekindled by his passionate commitment to environmental activism, and it’s an uplifting denouement to the story of a photographer unhardened by bearing witness to the human story.

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