Photographer Sebastião Salgado's Genesis at the Natural History Museum in London

By Ben Miller | 09 April 2013

Exhibition preview: Sebastião Salgado: Genesis, Natural History Museum, London, April 11 – September 8 2013

A black and white photo of a kind of white castle above an arid rocky landscape
Sebastião Salgado, Iceberg Between Paulet Island and the South Shetland Islands on the Weddell Sea. Antarctic Peninsula (2005)© Sebastião Salgado / Amazonas Images / nbpictures
Western desires to return to nature rarely extend as far as following a tribe through minus 40 degree cold in northern Siberia for 40 days. Carrying what they could on the reindeer sleds, that’s the scenario world-renowned artist Sebastião Salgado describes in the catalogue interview for this show.

Salgado’s new series shows the world at its rawest, portraying Arctic refuges where the mountains angle like lightning and cattle camps in Sudan, each rider wearing indigenous capes under oceanic skies.

His idea is to make the disconnection between populations and planets startling. His determination comes from his upbringing on a Brazilian farm where, upon his return with designs on taking over from his parents, he was forced to begin replanting the decimated forest.

Joined by his wife, Lélia, he has grown two million new trees, almost resurrecting the farm.

“It was very tough in the beginning because the land was completely dead,” he admits.

“I didn’t believe it was possible to grow one tree. It was the biggest pleasure of my life in the first year, when we planted close to 100,000 trees.”

Previously known for his work in America with migrating populations and workers, the documentary photographer consulted UNESCO experts to come up with the five vital ecosystems he visited.

But he defines himself as a scientist, and says his biggest fear is that chasm between cities and rural life.

“It is my biggest wish that with these pictures we make a small contribution,” he adds.

“On Genesis I learnt so many things from working with scientists and anthropologists.

“It was so comforting for me to see my species amongst other species, to see coherence in all things. If we isolate ourselves we are finished as a species.”

  • Admission £10/£5 (free for under-4s, family ticket £27). Book online. Follow the museum on Twitter @NHM_London.
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