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‘The Salt of the Earth’: The New Sebastião Salgado Documentary Directed by Wim Wenders

The first photograph Paris-based photojournalist Sebastião Salgado ever took was a portrait of his wife Lélia. Since then, the pair, who together form Amazonas Images, has shared with us secrets from the most impenetrable and delicate corners of the globe. The photographer has traveled to more than one hundred separate countries, propelled forward by his empathy for humanity and love for the planet to shoot everywhere from the war-torn regions of Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s to the home of the majestic and hunted elephants of Zambia.

Decades since that first familial snapshot, Sebastião and Lélia’s son, director Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, has teamed up with acclaimed director Wim Wenders to tell not only the story of Salgado’s life but also those of the many earthly inhabitants he tracked, documented, and unveiled to the world in glittering black and white tones. The result of their collaboration is the Oscar-dominated documentary The Salt of the Earth.

Sebastião Salgado photographs, whether they depict the tragic or the miraculous, have the power to catch our breath, to stop us in our tracks, and that’s exactly what they did to Wenders on his first viewing. The director first came across Salgado’s work while passing by a Los Angeles art gallery, where he subsequently brought two prints, reports The New York Times. Approximately twenty-five years later, Wenders found himself face-to-face with the legendary artist, and soon he was following—and recording— Salgado on his prolific travels.

For the film, Wenders and Juliano Salgado each shot footage of their own, weaving moments together to tell a composite story about a nuanced artist. Wenders shot Salgato as he spoke about individual photographs, delving into the recesses of his recollections to pull up memories both jagged and luminous. Looking back at some of the photographs, like those captured in Bosnia and Rwanda, was difficult for the photographer, but his journey is powerfully life-affirming, concluding with the rainforest repopulation project he and Lélia have been working on in recent years. Through this extraordinary film, we are allowed to bear witness to the work of a man described as “a witness of the human condition.”

via NYTimes.com

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