CCI Reader in Visual Culture, Dr Marius Kwint, writes catalogue essay for exhibition by acclaimed photographer Sebastião Salgado in Bangkok

An exhibition catalogue for one of the world’s greatest living photographers, Sebastião Salgado, has been introduced by the writing of a CCI Faculty academic.

Dr Marius Kwint, Reader in Visual Culture, penned the catalogue essay for an exhibition by the famous Brazilian documentarist and landscape photographer at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, presented by the Royal Photographic Society of Thailand in collaboration with Sundaram Tagore Gallery. Sebastião Salgado: The World through His Eyes opened on February 8th with a lecture and book-signing by Mr Salgado, plus a showing of the 2014 film about his life and work, The Salt of the Earth, co-directed by Wim Wenders. It is the first major presentation of Salgado’s work in Thailand.

Birthday celebration for Sebastiao Salgado in the Gallery, with a camera-shaped cake

Dr Kwint previously co-curated Salgado’s work with Sundaram Tagore as part of their highly regarded exhibition featuring 4 leading and emerging artists from 25 countries, entitled Frontiers Reimagined: Art That Connects Us, at the Museo di Palazzo Grimani in Venice, an official collateral event of the Venice Art Biennale in 2015.

Sebastião Salgado has selected photographs for the Bangkok exhibition from his most influential series: Workers (1986-1992), Exodus on migrants (1993-1999) and Genesis, on places untouched by modernity (2004-2011). Over the course of the past three decades, Sebastião Salgado has visited more than 100 countries, strongly motivated the desire for social justice, and deeply immersing himself in the situations of his subjects. His images are renowned for their humanitarian and environmental consciousness, combining uncompromising documentary realism with unforgettable aesthetic power.

The Gallery installation for the exhibition

Always in black-and-white, some of his most iconic images include workers’ struggle to cap Kuwaiti oil wells that had been released and set ablaze by retreating Iraqi forces in the First Gulf War in 1991. Some of the workers are shown sitting exhausted and in one case lying injured from their dangerous toil. Covered head to foot in shining oil from the fountaining well-heads, the men take on an almost sculptural, monumental quality.

Having trained and worked as a development economist, Salgado took up the camera professionally relatively late in life. Mr Salgado told Dr Kwint in an interview quoted in the essay that this academic background helped him to gain “the capacity of analysis, the capacity of synthesis, to situate what I was seeing. My first series, Workers, was [created] because there were huge transitions going on because of globalization.”

Dr Kwint said: “I’m deeply honoured to have been invited to write this essay, especially as I’ve had the privilege of discussing Sebastião Salgado’s work with students in my Visual Culture seminars for BA Hons Photography.”

Main hall of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

Marius Kwint continued: “Salgado tells the great and urgent stories of our times: documenting the changing nature of work and its effect on workers; the struggle for survival and dignity by refugees and migrants displaced by conflict, poverty, oppression and environmental degradation; and most recently, with hope for the future, he shows the threatened ecologies that we must conserve if this planet is to remain habitable. He shows these things as they occur, not bounded by national borders or parochial outlooks, but across the face of the entire earth.”

Sebastião Salgado: The World through His Eyes runs in Bangkok until 8th March 2017; an online version of the catalogue may be viewed here.

Picture credits: Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

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