This spring, the work of world-famous Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado is coming to Manchester for the very first time. His exhibition, Amazônia, will open at the Science and Industry Museum in May and free tickets are available to book now.
Salgado’s Amazônia is the result of several years spent in the Amazon rainforest with 12 different indigenous communities. Celebrating the heavenly landscapes and native peoples, the exhibition includes over 200 black and white images in an immersive setting, curated and designed by the artist’s wife, Lélia Wanick Salgado. The installation creates a forest of images, enveloping the viewer in the local flora and daily lives of the people pictured.
The immersion is further heightened by the specially commissioned soundtrack from acclaimed French composer and electronic music pioneer Jean Michel Jarre. Animal sounds, rustling trees and the bubbling of water all accompany the masterful visuals.
Sebastiao Salgado was born in Brazil and initially trained and worked as an economist before picking up a camera. He quickly abandoned his earlier career in favour of documentary photography, pouring his soul into capturing the grandeur of nature and the lives of people at their most vulnerable moments. This is perfectly reflected in his project Migrations (2000) which documented mass movements of people due to hunger, conflict and natural disasters. Later on, drawn to lands untouched by modern overconsumption, Salgado spent time documenting the most remote and pristine regions across the world which resulted in another project, Genesis (2013).
The photographs in Amazônia allow us a first-hand look at some of the places most at risk from the effects of the climate crisis. Salgado’s eye, however, focuses not on the cattle farms and soya bean fields, but on the living Amazon rainforest and its unblemished majesty. He describes the importance of beauty in gaining an acute awareness of what is at stake. Instead of instilling fear, he hopes that sharing the magic of the Amazon with a wider audience will spark in us an even stronger desire to protect it. As well as photographs, the exhibition also includes interviews with indigenous leaders fighting to keep their homes and ancestral land safe.
While celebrating the beauty of the ‘planet’s lungs’, the images on display at Amazônia also reveal incredible natural phenomena and the more intimate aspects of life for local people. ‘Flying rivers’ is the movement of large quantities of water vapour into the atmosphere that creates a cycle which supplies crucial water to the wider region, an ethereal process captured by Salgado in sharp monochrome. His photographs focusing on people range from posed portraits to action shots from daily life, as well structures resembling indigenous housing known as ‘ocas’.
The immersive ambience of the exhibition will undoubtedly provide a momentary escape from city life, while the sheer beauty of the photographs on display will leave viewers in awe of the Amazon’s unparalleled biodiversity, particularly when faced by the threat of rising temperatures. Amazônia is part of an international tour that includes Paris, Rome and Rio de Janeiro, so make sure you see it before it travels to the next destination.