New documentary by Wim Wenders tells the inspiring life journey of Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado

the-salt-of-the-earth-3“The Salt of the Earth: Journey with Sebastião Salgado” is playing at Landmark Embarcadero Theater in downtown San Francisco.

For decades, he traveled around the world photographing people, capturing the misery of humankind with photos depicting the effects of war, famine and exodus.

Then his lens turned to nature to deliver a message of hope, and he returned to his homeland of Brazil to plant 2 million trees.

Sebastião Salgado’s inspiring life journey is the subject of a new documentary. The film is born out of the love of someone who admires Salgado’s work deeply. German filmmaker Wim Wenders (“Alice in the Cities” (1973), “Paris, Texas” (1984), “Buena Vista Social Club” (1998)), also a photographer himself, was drawn to the project out of deep respect for Salgado’s work. He teamed up on the project with Salgado’s son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, who missed his absent father during his childhood.

“The Salt of the Earth: Journey with Sebastião Salgado” weaves together Salgado’s stunning black and white photographs with video footage, of Salgado at work in places like Papua New Guinea and the Arctic, that Juliano took during his more recent travels. Wenders’ intimate voice over and Salgado’s own recollection of his memories of the moment he took particular photos build a soundtrack that blends together into a moving narrative.

Le_Sel_de_la_Terre_SS3_6763__c_Donata_Wenders_01Born in a small town in Minas Gerais, in central Brazil, Salgado was the only boy among seven sisters. He studied Economics in Sao Paulo, and emigrated to France after the military coup of 1964. His job as an economist took him to Niger in 1973, where he photographed the consequences of a severe drought.

In 1977 he took on his first big project, ‘Otras Américas,’ which kept him busy for 7 years as he traveled throughout Latin America photographing people. Mali and Ethiopia in the 1980s, burning oil fields in Kuwait during the First Gulf War, the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and war in the former Yugoslavia a year later are all photographic projects Salgado embraced, criss-crossing the world for decades.

Salgado’s photographs have been exhibited to great acclaim, setting attendance records in several museums around the world, including San Francisco’s own Museum of Modern Art in 1990. His work has been published in books in many languages — “Other Americas” (1986), “Workers” (1993), “Terra” (1997), “Sahel, The End of the Road” (2004), “Africa” (2007), “Genesis” (2013), among others.

In Salgado’s own words, the essence of a portrait lays in a split second, the moment the subject lets the photographer to capture her or his soul.

“The Salt of the Earth: Journey with Sebastião Salgado” is an impressive documentary that not only showcases the Brazilian photographer’s indelible images, it is a cinematographic jewel made with love and admiration towards a man whose body of work and life journey is full of integrity and has come full circle. Someone to know about and to look up to.

Iñaki Fdez. de Retana
(this note was originally published by

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