Genesis – Sebastiao Salgado

Back in July, I visited the Genesis photography exhibition by Sebastiao Salgado. 2013 seems to have been my year of favouring monotone images, possibly all starting from the Ansel Adams exhibition I went to see at the end of 2012 so going to see Genesis seemed to fit into my current preferences very well.

The exhibition showed a mixture of landscapes, nature and portraiture and is the culmination of 8 years of work photographing pristine environments. The exhibition was split into 5 sections Sanctuaries, Planet South, Africa, Amazonia and Pantanal, and Northern Spaces.

As mentioned, all the images are displayed in Black and White and it is quite quickly noticeable that they have almost all been produced with a very high contrast feel. Initially, this production style was impressively impactful and very striking, however, as I progressed the the huge number of images on display it lost its edge and even started to become a distraction and possibly a bit of an irritation.

I’m not sure if it was completely down to the production style but I also started to crave some colour. This feeling was at its strongest when viewing images of the people in remote regions such as workers from Africa draped in robes that my brain was telling me were full of colour. In contrast to this though, I found the majority of landscape and nature images really satisfying.

Of all the images on display, the image that really stuck in my mind was possibly one of the simplest on display. The image was titled “A leopard (Panthera pardus) in the Barab Riber Valley, Damaraland” taken in Namibia in 2005. It was presented in a landscape orientation with the leopard placed on the lower third drinking from a pool of water. Due to the pool being made of rocks in what appeared an almost perfect cicle, it appeared man made. The leopards reflection can be seen in the water but everything else is completely black.

The detail that I felt really makes the image is the creeping posture of the leopard and its stare being straight into the camera. This made it feel like there is a direct communication from the leopard to the photographer. However, I couldn’t decide if the message was some agreement to let each other get on with there business, a warning that this is the leopards territory or fear of what lay in the dark.

Reflecting back on the exhibition overall leaves me a little disappointed because it is the production of the images that has stuck with me, not the images themselves. Having seen other exhibitions all in black and white I felt that it wasn’t this choice that was the issue but the contrast. I feel that producing such a large body of work would have benefited from a larger variation.

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