ICP Exhibit – Sebastiao Selgado

Upon entering the exhibit, the first thing you see is text explaining the concept of Selgado’s exhibit partnered with a photograph of a land mass surrounded by water. I was slightly taken aback by the paragraph; dealing with the theme of the exhibit, it explains how the photos are representative of the fact there are areas in the world still untouched by technology, laying emphasis upon its natural beauty. It is also a statement of our need to preserve ancient cultures and the habitats of animals. Its title, Genesis, is in my opinion is meant to portray the places he photographed in biblical proportion, evident in its awe-inspiring views. The photographs are organized in terms of region: Africa, Alaska, Brazil, Indonesia, and Siberia to name a few.

The subject matter in general deals with the environment in its natural state, unaltered by the hands of civilization, just as it is intended to be. Animals are portrayed in vast amounts, particularly Porcupine caribou in Alaska (with an estimated population to be 200,000). In my opinion the portraits were very humbling. Tribes from areas so different in terms of climate, such as Africa and Alaska, both share their need to survive, hunt, and adapt to the harshness of their surroundings. It is amazing in the sense that they have no need for the things we often take for granted; there are no cell phones, their clothing is practical and suited only for their surroundings, even the mere fact that there are no paved roads in certain areas.

One photograph in particular that struck me depicted the frozen Arctic Ocean in Alaska. Selgado uses the rule of thirds to show what seems to be an endless path against the water, shooting off and eventually coming to an end as it meets the horizon. The photo is shot with a white depth of field, putting into perspective just how empty and open the space is. In terms of framing, it is a long shot. The viewpoint is at eye-level and there is a large amount of positive space (the water as compared to the horizon and sky, which is the negative space). Selgado sets the aperture small so as to focus the whole scene.

In summary, the exhibit is a portrayal of simplicity, as well as complexity, in nature and human living. Depictions of land masses, bodies of water, man and animals lead me to feelings of unfamiliarity, as living in the city my whole life has distanced me from the world’s natural settings. Its aim is to not only show that there still remains unadulterated areas, but to also enlighten us as far as the need to safe keep these sanctuaries. It offers the theme that places exist where “nature reigns in silent and pristine majesty.” There is emotional impact in its serenity and how minimalistic it is, particularly in how the people go about their lives without “our” necessities. Selgado is able to capture the raw essence of the world as it truly should be seen.

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1 Response to ICP Exhibit – Sebastiao Selgado

  1. rmichals says:

    Excellent. You bring up a number of great points. Certainly, the idea that Salgado names the show Genesis could be considered a bit grandiose. I also like that you clearly describe your experience as a city dweller and that these images are not something that you are familiar with. I am not either except through other images. I think that is true for most of the audience. So the question is how does the exhibit go beyond the pleasures of arm chair travel to generate action on climate change? or maybe it doesn’t.

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