[by Sebastião Salgado, from "Genesis"]
I visit London frequently and make it a point to take in one or two exhibits each time. Art and culture are abundant and highly accessible in the Big Smoke, so there really is no excuse not to pop by The Photographers’ Gallery on top of Oxford Circus, or the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in South Kensington.
During my last two visits, I saw the following photography-related shows which reminded me how powerful this medium remains despite the growing prevalence of digital video, and why funds are still invested in high quality photography work.
I first saw Salgado’s work as part of his powerful series “Workers: An Archaeology of the Industrial Age” which looked at laborers from 26 countries in different fields – mining, oil refinery, coffee and tea plantations, ditches and canals. Salgado had been accused of romanticizing the Third World, but they hold irrevocabe and brutal truth. After “Workers” came “Migrations”, a six-year photographic chronicle of the “human flood tides set loose around the world by wars, famines or just people searching for work.” I imagine that after documenting so much human suffering and destruction, Salgado turned to nature or what was left of nature’s spoils.
The best online showcase of Genesis is by Time’s Lightbox but nothing prepared me for the haunting beauty of seeing them in all their spectacular detail. Since 2004, Salgado made a total of 34 trips to the Kalahari Desert, the jungles of Indonesia, the Galápagos Islands and Madagascar, across the Antarctic, Falkland Islands, South Sandwich Islands and across Siberia with the nomadic Nenets. Thank god for benches, I lingered there quite mesmerized by sea lions staring back at me (see above), a sea of chin-strapped penguins diving into the sea’s abyss and Siberia Nenet hunters driving reindeer across icy plains. You’d think that his choice of monochrome for nature was a compromise, but I emerged convinced of its deliberative and arresting impact.
Man Ray Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery (until 27MAY)
“A camera alone does not make a picture. To make a picture you need a camera, a photographer and above all a subject. It is the subject that determines the interest of the photograph.” ~ Man Ray, Oct. 2, 1966
[Man Ray, "Self-portrait"]