A tantalizing morsel of Wim Wenders‘ and Juliano Salgado’s documentary on Sebastião Salgado, The Salt of the Earth (IMDB), has been released. The Guardian has a review and some information about the making of the film.
Sure, half of the video (above) isn’t in English, and the trailer makes the movie look like a hagiographic camera advertisement, but I’ll still be interested to watch when it comes out. When it does come out, there likely will be a host of critiques of Salgado’s work, as ever. Most of this critique hinges on the beautification and aestheticizing of suffering. The standard response is that the photographer must make photos worth looking at if they are to drive attention to particular issues. More troubling are issues of representation in Salgado’s work as it approaches the noble savage depiction of indigenous peoples. I don’t think Salgado’s work reaches Jimmy Nelson levels of colonialist/orientalist anthropology, but it’s there, especially in the most recent Genesis work. This Huffington Post review approaches the topic a bit, and here’s the first page of an academic paper(← PDF) looking at objectification in Salgado’s work. More troubling still is that the Genesis project was largely funded by the Vale mining company, one of the worst human rights violators in some of the regions that Salgado’s work depicts. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see Salgado at work in this film.
Wim Wenders seems to have a particular interest in documentary photography, by the way. If you remember, he delivered a particularly moving speech when James Nachtwey was award the third annual Dresden Peace Prize.