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The Salt of the Earth – Astonishing story of a Legend: Sebastião Salgado

The Serra-Pelada, Brazil’s gold mine…there before me! When I reached the edge of that enormous hole…every hair on my body stood on end. I’d never seen anything like it. Here, in a split second, I saw unfolding before me…  the history of mankind…The building of the pyramids…the Tower of Babel…the mines of King Solomon. Not the sound of a single machine could be heard. All you could hear was the babble of 50,000 people in one huge hole.

Conversations, noises, human sounds mingled with the sounds of manual labour. I had returned to the dawn of time. I could almost hear the gold whispering in the souls of these men.
Sebastião Salgado

 

[ Storyline: For the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastião Salgado has been travelling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He has witnessed some of the major events of our recent history; international conflicts, starvation and exodus. He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of wild fauna and flora, and of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project which is a tribute to the planet’s beauty. Directed by Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders. With Sebastião Salgado, Wim Wenders, Lélia Wanick Salgado, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.]

[Critic says: “The Salt of the Earth,” a film by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, illustrates the way Sebastião Salgado’s photographs create beauty by capturing pain, violence and deprivation.
– A.O. Scott, The NYTimes]

 

The film started by a breathtaking photo of a large pit of The Serra Pelada, a massive Brazilian gold mine. Where 50,000 people from all type and ages were climbing ladders. When I saw this photo and in the background, the photographer telling his story about that mine, I feel stunned. Like I am also hearing the sound of whispering of rushed souls. This docufilm’s subject is about the visionary Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado, the most celebrated photojournalist in the world.

Salgado was born in Brazil to middle-class parents. He had to left his homeland in 1969 after being involved in student protests against the military dictatorship. He settled down in Paris and started his career as an economist. On work purpose, he was travelling often around Africa and so places. He eventually started taking pictures with his wife Leila’s camera. That was the beginning.

The more you are getting into the film, the more you are getting deep into the scenes. You can take an opportunity to be a part of these shocking photographs of Salgado. You can fly by time in motion with the adventures social photographer who always try to search for the people’s souls in his whole journey. You can see firefighters battling to extinguish 500 oil wells aflame in Kuwait, drought disaster in Niger in ’73,  starvation in Ethiopia.

We- self pro-acclimated civic folks always understandably try to avert our gaze from these events. But, more than three decades as a photojournalist, Salgado gets us to look — and look closely— by finding humanity in scenes of despair. I was wordless when I see a half-naked boy clutching a guitar, standing straight, staring out at an endless path of a never-ending search for peace.

In the last segment of The Salt of the Earth, we see, Salgado returns home to Brazil and joins his wife Leila. Together they started an ecological movement to deforestation their abused and barren mountain range. It resulted in the replanting of two million trees in an area which has been now a vast and rich green piece of land. I found a truth, Salgado was not only a photographer. He was a man with wisdom, who loved this planet and who shared an empathic relationship with people.

In the end, I can see a deep peaceful gaze on Salgado’s eyes. His mind was severely damaged by photographing deaths and human suffering, sadness and misery. He was saying, “we are terrible species”. After all long years in floating around the world, Salgado found the peace. It’s  Like healing the rotten lend and rebuilding a rain forest helped heal Salgado’s wound of souls.

Look, it’s raining..Beautiful rain. This land is extremely important to us. We’re completing a cycle with this land. Within this cycle, we have spent our lives. The lives of my parents…the lives of my sisters…a large part of my life. And today, we’re living our lives here again…Lélia and I. This land continues to tell our story. It formed my childhood and accompanies my old age. And when I die… this forest will once again be like when I was born. And the cycle will be complete. It’s the story of my life.
Sebastião Salgado

We may be a photographer, trying to capture pictures for Instagram or for getting likes and followers. But, what is Our contribution to humanity and the living planet,  as a Photographer and a human being? Salgado’s life asked me a question, Am I trying to complete my life cycle?

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