Documentary ‘Salt of the Earth’ pays homage to photographer, father Sebastiao Salgado

Salt
Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy

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How often have you seen a picture that stirred up emotions inside you? Or watched a film that inspired you to channel your inner artist and create something meaningful?

Award winning photographer Sebastiao Salgado has captured the essence of humanity in some of his books, such as “Workers,” “Sahel, The End of the Road” and “Exodus.” Directors Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, the photographer’s son, pay homage to the life and works of Sebastiao Salgado while reminding us about the true meaning of photography in their stunning documentary, “The Salt of The Earth.”

Sebastiao Salgado has been photographing the earth and its inhabitants for the last 40 years, producing volumes of work that capture human history, with the help of his wife Leila. His photographs are inspiring, and Wenders and Salgado have done Sebastiao Salgado’s work justice.

Not only are the subject’s photographic talents highlighted in this film, but as a whole, “The Salt of The Earth” is executed well cinematically, showing off the talent of the directors as well.

Wender’s background as a photographer meshes well with Salgado’s experience as a documentarian. Choosing to make most of the film in black and white was an artistic decision that helped emphasize the meaning behind Sebastiao Salgado’s work and life. It strips away the distraction of colors, and pays homage to Sebastiao Salgado’s pattern of black and white photography, leaving the audience with a series of powerful, breathtaking images that focus on content and not color or definition. Sebastiao Salgado’s work is then truly appreciated for his masterful use of lighting.

From his work focusing on the corruption and starvation in Rwanda, to the culture and lives of South Americans and international conflicts, Sebastiao Salgado has created inspiring images. “The Salt of The Earth” gives a glimpse into what drove Sebastiao Salgado to keep traveling and photographing humanity, while maintaining the true meaning of his work.

Born in Brazil in 1944, Sebastiao Salgado came from humble beginnings in a small town, born into a family of seven sisters. When he came of age, his father urged him to get a degree in economics, marking the beginning of Sebastiao Salgado’s travels. In the 1970s, corruption in Brazil led Sebastiao Salgado and his wife Leila to Paris. It was there that his future as a photographer began, leaving behind a secure and well-paying job as an economist.

After traveling for two decades, to about 100 countries, Sebastiao Salgado returned to Brazil in the 1990s, where he and Leila focused on replanting part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. The Salgados succeeded in turning barren land into a nature reserve over less than a decade, creating the Instituto Terra, which is an environmental NGO dedicated to reforestation, conservation and education.

Years after his social works, Sebastiao Salgado embarked on a new venture, inspired by the Instituto Terra, called “Genesis,” where he photographed parts of the Earth that remain untouched by humans and corruption.

Laurent Petitgand’s music plays a huge role in enhancing how the audience feels and sees what Sebastiao Salgado did. Tracks such as “Sick Soul” send goosebumps across one’s body from the chilling, and at times disturbing, images of Rwanda, while “Genesis” enhances the breathtaking views of the earth, captured in Sebastiao Salgado’s recent work.

Sebastiao Salgado’s narration is extremely helpful in adding insight to his work, giving audiences an accurate depiction of how haunting and emotional some moments as a photographer can be.

“The Salt of The Earth” is a great film for aspiring photographers that shows how the medium can be a powerful tool, while delving into the bonds between photographer and subject. Sebastiao Salgado and Leila’s passion for the Earth and humanity has produced impactful works that are artistically conveyed through the ingenious use of cinematic elements by Wenders and Salgado. “The Salt of The Earth” pays homage to the essence of life, as well as the arts.

Contact Gautami Sharma at [email protected].