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What do playful penguins slipping, sliding and leaping off an iceberg have in common with oil-soaked men fighting fires that rage across the deserts of Kuwait? Sebastiao Salgado. During his forty-year career, the intrepid social documentary photographer has illuminated the high drama of living, from the plight of fleeing migrant populations to the breathtaking grandeur of the earth’s most pristine expanses. Now, Salgado’s photographs of “Kuwait: A Desert on Fire” is on view at Robert Klein Gallery on Newbury Street in Boston and a selection of his most beloved work from other projects is on view at their satellite gallery at Ars Libri in Boston’s SoWa arts district through November 29th, 2017.
Salgado’s photographs are always gorgeous, regardless of subject matter. In this way, his early photojournalistic and social documentary work lured viewers into alarming scenes of the exploited and desperate, from the wretched working conditions of millions of the world’s laborers to the destructive chaos of war. His exclusive use of B&W photography accentuates the compositional tension he builds within each frame, with striking lines, points and counterpoints. Salgado’s impeccable command of tonal range and contrast magnify the dynamic impact of his photographs. And always, his images pulse with drama.
Salgado’s photographic life can be separated into two distinct chapters, as contrasting and balanced as his imagery. The photographs that made him famous depict people enduring abysmal working conditions and displaced populations seeking refuge across the world. They were published by news organizations and have been compiled in books whose titles describe their plight: “Workers: Archeology of the Industrial Age (Phaidon, 1993), “Terra: Struggle of the Landless” (Phaidon, 1997), and “Migrations” (Aperture, 2000), to name just three.
After bearing witness to so much death and destruction, Salgado embarked on in his most recent project, “Genesis” (Taschen, 2013), an eight year worldwide journey meant, in his words, “to portray the beauty and the majesty of regions that are still in a pristine condition, areas where landscapes and wildlife are still unspoiled, places where human communities continue to live according to their ancient culture and traditions. Genesis is about seeing and marveling, about understanding the necessity for the protection of all this; and finally it is about inspiring action for this preservation.” At seventy-three years old, Salgado perseveres in using his dramatic imagery to promote humanitarian efforts.
For more information about Sebastiao Salgado’s dual exhibits, go to: https://www.robertkleingallery.com/
Feature Image: “Chinstrap Penguins, 2009” (Detail) by Sebastiao Salgado (courtesy of Robert Klein gallery, Boston).