Tributes & Video Biographies
Sharing Life Stories, Connecting Generations, Preserving Legacies

The Salt Of The Earth – about Sebastião Salgado

Last week I watched the documentary “The Salt of the Earth” about documentary photographer Sebastião Salgado. This is one of those films that I can’t stop thinking about, which is a good thing.

For those that aren’t familiar with Salgado’s work, he is a Brazilian photojournalist and social photographer that has traveled the world photographing indigenous cultures and the social effects of major geo-political actions on these areas. Largely self-directed, these photo shoots have been published into large-format books that have helped raise awareness of mankind’s effect on human communities.

The film, co-directed by Wim Wenders and Salgado’s son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado deftly weaves interviews with Salgado, footage of him shooting, and exploration of his photo sessions with commentary by Wenders, Salgado’s wife Leila as well as his son Juliano. Much of the film is shot in black and white, reflecting Salgado’s choice of shooting in black and white although some fade to color sequences are there, which provide for some great dramatization and a reminder of why black and white can be so effective for documentary photography. There has been some criticism by reviewers that this film doesn’t explore his methodology nor explore the greater social implications of his work. I don’t find that a problem with this film. First of all, going in those directions could turn this into a docu-series and secondly, Wenders’ aim is more to provide a glimpse into an extremely talented and sensitive man and how his passion for exploration and documenting the human condition has led him on a 40 year global tour. I like the slow, almost moseying pace of the film for it allows the audience to really savor the impact of the images as well as to be present with Salgado’s own emotional affect.

I’m not exactly sure how long it took to make this film but you got the impression that Wenders has followed Salgado for much of his adult life, which allowed for a great time-line of personal narrative. Some really good film techniques were used to support Salgado’s actual photographs such as the use of other photos and film clips taken during photo shoots, and special effects such as Salgado’s face fading into a photograph he was talking about.

I hope this movie is available near you. I would imagine at some point, it will be available on streaming platforms, but for now, you might check with your own museum or independent film theater.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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