Sunday, November 23, 2014


The work of photographer SebastiĆ£o Salgado is, even on the small size of a coffee table book, awesome. There is something about the way he captures the images of people and places that transcend the ordinary and make it soul stirring or shattering. His images seem to capture the inner truth of whatever he aims his camera at.

I remember 20 years ago, being at Barnes and Noble and discovering his book Workers and being blown away. Who was this guy and why hadn’t I ever heard of him? His pictures didn’t so much speak to me as taught me about things words could never say. I was in awe from that day to this.

When I saw that Wim Wenders had co-directed a film about Salgado I knew I had to see it, and when it was announced as playing DOC NYC I knew I would move heaven and earth to see it.

The film was begun by Salgado’s son Juliano Ribeiro who wanted to get to know his father the wanderer. He wanted to know what he did when he went out to shoot his pictures. He then brought in Wenders to help give an outsider perspective. The film is a structured as a look back, with Salgado looking back over his life as he also is working on his latest project shooting nature and animals. What we see is Salgado’s entire life in photos, both color and his trademark black and white. He talks about each photo and each project telling us about what each photo is and how it was taken and in some cases how it changed his life (The cruelties documented in some of the later projects forced him to stop shooting for years)

The spine of the film is Salgado’s glorious photos. We see the shots we know from his books blown up to the size of a movie screen. We stare into them and they into us. Seeing them twenty or thirty feet tall is beyond awesome. It is one of the most visually overpowering experiences you will ever have. The audience at DOC NYC sat in silence staring at the screen. No one moved. No one made a noise expect to gasp at what we were seeing or to quietly sob at the pain of those in the pictures.

I had wanted to sit up close to really see the pictures but by the half way mark I was glad I was sitting in the back since I would have been turned into mush by the emotion of the images.

The film is largely black and white to match Salgado’s images but there are times when it shifts back to his home in Brazil or into the artic where he is shooting walruses when it change to color. I groaned audibly during the first shift since the black and white was so evocative. I didn’t want to leave the perfect dream of the monochrome.

I don’t know what more to say other than you have to see the film when the film gets a release in the spring.

Seriously this is one of the most awesome (in the truest sense of the word) experiences you will ever have in a movie theater- or anywhere-ever.

Just as Salgado’s photos are some of the greatest images you’ll ever see, so is this movie.

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