Environment: Making it better wherever you are
A Photographer Out to Save the World
Sebastiago Salgado lives inside photography. His photos are changing the way we see the world. Rather than just capture a beautiful scene, his pictures tell a story that a mere thousand words could never convey.
Salgado grew up on a farm in Brazil where thirty-five families sustained themselves through responsible agriculture. However, as modern times encroached its destructive ways on the land, Salgado’s family farm succumbed to the devastation. This happened while Salgado lived far away in Paris pursuing his education, getting married, and starting his family. He discovered photography in his twenties and traveled the world documenting cultural differences threaded through common lives. A turning point happened when he photographed the war in Rwanda. The genocide was more than his spirit could assimilate. He became ill and on his doctor’s advice, stopped his career in photography. As often is the case when we are broken in spirit, Salgado went home. He and his wife were shocked at what they found. 50% of the farm used to be a forest; now only .5% remained.
Salgado saw the connection between the dying land and his withered soul. It was then that he and his wife came up with a plan. They formed an organization to restore the land by planting 2.5 million trees - over two hundred native species. They raised money from various sources and were successful. In ten years, the family farm is once again a lush paradise. The trees are removing 100,000 tons of carbon from the atmosphere annually. Salgado rebuilt his local ecosystem with a model that can be replicated anywhere.
Salgado has returned to photography. He travels the world again taking pictures of the earth’s beauty - its people, plants, animals, mountains, water and any life that he can capture with his camera. His message is to preserve the best we have and in the process restore the worst we’ve done.
In the introduction to his book, Migrations, he wrote, "More than ever, I feel that the human race is one. There are differences of colour, language, culture and opportunities, but people's feelings and reactions are alike.”
Here is a link to a story in The Guardian about Salgado’s work for his recent book, Genesis, and an interesting answer to a question the reporter asked him on what he has learned from producing the book:
"Many things. The first truth is, I have been told a lie throughout my life. We were always told we were the only rational species. But each species has its own rationality, the same as the trees, the plants: they all have incredible behaviour, incredible rationality, incredible intelligence."
You can hear Salgado tell his story on T.E.D. and look at the stunning pictures from his travels and see the before and after photos of the farm.
You can read about his latest film, Salt of the Earth, a collaboration with another filmmaker, Wim Wenders, in this article from The Guardian.
Do you enjoy reading PONDER? If so, then please consider becoming a regular monthly sponsor. Your contribution from as little as $5 will help cover the cost of publication and the time it takes to research and write every issue. PONDER accepts no advertising.