August 26, 2005

Brazil’s Salgado turns his camera to nature, tribes

By Maria Pia Palermo

XINGU INDIAN RESERVATION, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazilian
photographer Sebastiao Salgado has shown the world the face of
poverty, the tragedy of famine and the sweat of hard labor.

Now Mother Nature is attracting the world-renowned master
of black-and-white stills.

Salgado is chasing animals in the wild, taking pictures of
pristine landscapes and indigenous tribes that still live in
balance with the environment.

The project he calls Genesis has taken the 61-year-old to
the Xingu reservation in Brazil's Amazon, clicking away in a
white Panama hat and shirt among dancing, painted Indians.

"We live in disharmony with the universe, as if we were not
part of it," Salgado said, sitting in a hammock in the Waura
village in Xingu.

Salgado's most famous pictures have often shown the grim
side of life in refugee and workers communities across the
world, such as his 1986 images of miners in the Serra Pelada
mine in Brazil swarming over the earth like ants.

In his Exodus project, he focused on the fate of poor
farmers forced to abandon their land for an uncertain future in
big cities all over the world.

Born in Minas Gerais state in 1944, he trained as an
economist and switched to photography in 1973. Among his other
famed work are his photos of the 1981 assassination attempt on
Ronald Reagan, the only stills taken of the incident.

The theme of the Genesis project also has its gloomy
overtones. It is designed to show how modern man is losing
contact with the earth and is an attempt to rediscover the lost
link and promote conservation efforts.

"We try to feel more and more in control in an urban
society but we are losing balance," Salgado said.

The Indians called him Kaki, or "Salty," the translation of
his Portuguese last name.


The reservation, in central Brazil, is home to about 5,000
of Brazil's indigenous population of around 700,000. Though the
number of Brazilian Indians is growing, it is still tiny
compared with the estimated 6 million population before the
arrival of the Portuguese over 500 years ago. Centuries of
abuse, enslavement and illnesses wiped out many tribes.

As a result, Salgado aimed his lenses at animals for the
first time.

But he says he is treating them just as humans, trying to
understand them and photograph them "with passion."

"It's the first time that I decided to photograph other
animals, beyond man," he said, adding that he quickly
discovered how not to scare the wild creatures away, be it
giant Galapagos turtles or jungle beasts.

"If you come walking on foot they go away, but if you come
on your knees, at their height, they accept you."

Salgado has already visited the Galapagos Islands with its
rich fauna and Patagonia's coast where he took pictures of
whales. After Xingu, he will travel to Africa and photograph
elements of tribal life and nature.

The project will last for eight years. Salgado's pro-nature
drive should not only produce exhibitions and coffee-table
books, but educational materials and tree replanting in
Brazil's decimated Atlantic rainforest.