I am not at present a landscape photographer – and I have no particular interest in Sebastião Salgado, but I do like Wim Wenders (and am booked to go and see his exhibition soon) and I enjoy watching photographers work.
Salgado’s images are rather extraordinary – the breadth, scope of his achievements are remarkable. He does take his camera to places that I didn’t even know were places – sees people in a Chim Seymour adventure, and that in itself is interesting.
Again, like other photographers I admire, it is often less the simple image that I admire, but the person themselves – and I probably admire in them what I feel I lack myself. That commitment that they show to push themselves out there, camera in hand, pushing not simply their art, but themselves. Salgado gives up his economics job at the UN, leaves his wife and new born son, and goes away for nearly 2 years taking images. Thats a gamble, and I always lack the bottle in situations like that. Even if I did want to leave my children and go away and work like that, I feel I would need some sort of safety net – so I admire that commitment in others. I regret that I don’t have it.
At times the film (and it is more film than documentary) can be a little tender maybe. The music sweetly plays over the images, the voice over floats god-like across the mountain views. Wenders is obviously a fan, and their is no criticism of either the work, nor the man. The filmic images often appear as moving Salgado images, so we have pretty much got an homage to Salgado rather than a Wim Wenders film.
But – the chance to watch a guy like Salgado walk with his camera, see him interact with people, make decisions, hear why decisions were made etc is invaluable – so for that reason alone I would recommend it. I saw it at a special showing at the cinema – so on the big screen its sheer scale – like the sheer scale of Salgado projects and works – is striking. I watched it again on Sky Arts and the tones of the images appear better on the small screen – so if you see it there don’t worry, there are benefits to that too.
So don’t expect and great critical insight, but like another film (Bill Cunningham’s New York – which I will write it on this very blog now) the privilege of getting to watch these committed guys work is the real benefit to me.