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Tuesday, 17 December 2013


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I said it when it first came out and had the opportunity to see it in its full glory (i.e., the LARGE 2 tome version): this is THE BEST photography book ever published.

end of story. there are many great books out there, many are masterpieces in their own right, but this is IT.

do yourselves a favour and get a copy - if you can afford it, go for the large one, otherwise the 'regular' version is great too.

I saw the Genesis exhibition at London's Natural History Museum earlier this year. I found it breathtaking, and I presume the book is of a similar standard.

Saw the exhibit a couple months back at Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica. Expressive, indeed. There is also a large (size and price) version of the book.

Sounds great, and Salgado's work is to be much admired, but I want to encourage an embargo on any photo-book that aspires to be a lectern bible, or requires a step-ladder and binoculars to get enough distance to view properly. A book is the original and ultimate hand-held device. Let's keep it that way in 2014!


Love the project and the shots, but Salgado's printing style is grotesquely overcooked. Ansel Adams, at his most manipulative, was a one-hour Noritsu machine in comparison

Ordered this book as soon as it was available, arrived with smeared forward page and a few crinkled pages, I sent it back and did not reorder, GB.

On amazon.co.uk, the cheapest one (presently £22.31) is the one to get, and is also the English language version. The more expensive are French and German versions. Go figger.

"It would almost be superfluous to comment on the photographs themselves."
I agree. They're beyond words. Sebastião Salgado is one of the very few geniuses of photography still alive and working. I hope there's still much more to come from him.

I bought this book last spring. Saw the exhibition in Toronto at same time. Print quality and size incredible.

I'm sorry, I cannot agree.

I thought the book was crowded with too many pictures... no space, no air, too much in a huge book. From my point of view, it missed the point. It's not about the superb material. It's obvious there are wonderful images and S. Salgado has experience and an impressive career. I suppose we all know that!
But It's just a BIG machine... I'm sad for the primary idea because when I bought the book I expected so much. But the presentation shocked me. Perhaps I'm not the only one. And definitely...BIGGER IS NOT BETTER...

I'll simply recall one part of the post by Jim Hugues about David Vestal (on the 12th of december), because it is the same idea by a better critic than I'll never be :

"'The Family of Man' included many strong and beautiful photographs, but they were murdered in front of your eyes by a showmanship that did not suit them. Most of the commercial-lab prints were too big, many were poor in quality, and all of them were jammed into too little space in ways that were too complicatedly clever. The good pictures were diluted by the inclusion of more mediocre ones. This wasn't communication, it was an assault. The show was also too popular to see well—rush hour in the subway.

"Those were the minor problems. The big mistake was to treat the photographs as raw material to illustrate a sentimental and essentially verbal (script by Carl Sandburg) idealization of our species. There is much to be said for mankind, but this was syrup pretending to have muscles. It was colossally mediocre; a still-photo counterpart of Cecil B. DeMille's Bible epic movies, and as convincing.

"Moral: Show good pictures only, and hang them so they can be seen well; don't try to show ideas. Intelligent or not, ideas are not visible."

—From "Getting the Hang of It," by David Vestal, 35-mm Photography, Summer 1978

I gave "Genesis" back to my bookseller. I'm convinced It will please somebody else. I put the recovered money on "le photographe" : http://lephotographe.dupuis.com/site.html
, which was a better buy for me.

No offense to Salgado, I was expecting something different...That's all

Obligatory whining about the photographs being presented in landscape format that causes some to disappear in the gutter should commence in 5,4,3,2,1...

I find it a bit disconcerting to read a review of Salgado's Genesis without any mention of its major corporate sponsor Vale. Gavin Haines, writing in the July 17, 2013 edition of The Independent, noted that, "In a 2012 poll conducted by corporate watchdogs, The Public Eye, the Brazilian mining company Vale was awarded the dubious distinction of being the company with the 'most contempt for the environment and human rights' in the world." Read the article yourself: "The natural world, photographed by Sebastião Salgado – sponsored by a corporation that's despoiling the Amazon." http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/news/the-natural-world-photographed-by-sebastio-salgado--sponsored-by-a-corporation-thats-despoiling-the-amazon-8714748.html

You might also want to read an earlier article by Lewis Bush titled "Sebastião Salgado and Cultural Capital." http://www.disphotic.lewisbush.com/2013/06/10/sebastiao-salgado-and-cultural-capital/

I did examine a copy of Salgado's weighty book a few months ago, and was as impressed as Wittig seemed to be with its production values. Still, I decided to forego its purchase, and not because of its hefty price. It was a matter of principle. And this from an early and enthusiastic supporter of Salgado when he received the 1982 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography, a program I co-founded.

-- Jim Hughes

got my copy in pre-order months ago, I was simply stunned.I never expected the depth and breadth of this book. So very pleased I got it.

"A good number are printed across the fold, though the book's sheer size makes this less objectionable than usual."

My feeling is that it does diminish the power of some very good pictures by a very good photographer.

I saw the exhibition in London and have the book as well, but cannot but help thinking that they are wonderful photographs destroyed by the overly dramatic and "over processed" look and presentation. If it was not Salgado, we would not be so deferential and accommodating...

Top quality photographic work, and the usual controversy. Salgados's touch.

Thank you Mike, only £22 on Amazon UK! As Guy has said but I will reiterate (having made the mistake before), beware, the more expensive ones are French and German editions. I've only seen some of the 'blockbuster' images so far, and am looking forward to it, especially after some of the pro/counter comments above.

Let me start this off with saying I am a fan of Sebastio Selgado and his work. However, this book suffers from exactly the same problem as the exhibition did, a distinct lack of editing.

The exhibition had hundreds of photographs, far too many to digest at once and consequently they become a morass of images that leave less of an impression on you. He seemed to be suffering from the affliction that affects every beginner in photography, an overwhelming desire to show you everything rather than spend more time on creating a succinct and more powerful edit.

I know that it is supposed to be a large and encompassing project, but there still comes a point where you end up with viewer fatigue.

With all due respect to Sebastiao Salgado, these images remind me of the cartoon world Peter Jackson created in Lord of the Rings.

It is curious that someone of the stature of Salgado had to seek sponsorship from a corporation such as Vale.

The book is a bargain for the production (maybe thanks to sponsorship). Consider that its only $10 more than the Lodima Bret Weston portfolios, yet it has 20 times more pages.

I admire the images, but I cannot help to find many of the landscape images "overcooked", in a way that previous film-based Salgado books were not. If you look at the local contrast range of images, you'll notice that it is often very high, while there is no global contrast. This is a characterist of many HDR images, which to my eye make them look artificial.

I find it totally immersive in half hour chunks (4 to date). Some pictures have a little more over production than might be necessary, but the sweeping content is simply stunning (the cover picture is not misleading as an indication of the nature of the content). I'm aware of various differing opinions of Salgado, but I think this tome is a worthy addition to his previous work - just for sheer splendour (not in a gleeful coffee table way)- and I don't think it to be simple confection. It's been a huge project and it is worthy of a big presentation. I'd be interested to know if anyone else could produce this if it had been a brief from a publisher, and what the end result would be: I'm in awe of the commitment displayed.

Saw the exhibition in Paris (it seems to have been to countless locations already, is there a multiple set in multiple locations at any one time?). Can't speak of the book, but I agree with those that say it is 'too much': no editing, lots of duplication; too much post processing, clearly; too much of a crowd too. Still, some of the images are simply stunning. Actually the best stuff remains those sections dedicated to timeless human tribes. Back to basics for Salgado, who is clearly less at ease in the shoes of Ansel Adams and his landscapes.

Sebastião Salgado strikes me as enormously problematic photographer. While, in many respects an admirable individual with a remarkable record of achievements, I consider his work, presented in book form as he wishes, to be fundamentally flawed.
He is ambitious, committed, energetic and supremely well organized, with a remarkable ability to generate support for his large scale schemes. Additionally, he proved the effectiveness of black and white at a period, pre digital, when the prevailing trend in news magazine publishing was toward colour.
However, his projects make implicit claims the work cannot and does not support. This is because he totally ignores the innate qualities and limitations of still photography in his grandiose endeavours. Photographs only show - they don’t and can’t explain.
To use photographs to explain the evolution of the simplest situation requires they be contextualized by words. Doing this at book length, in a way that effectively balances both, is rare but not impossible. Eugene Smith did it with his study of mercury poisoning at Minemata, in Japan, as did Phillip Jones Griffiths reporting of the American war in Vietnam, presented in Vietnam Inc. Both books have viewpoints based upon and supported by genuine research into the nature of the political, cultural and economic causes behind the events they reported.
However, Salgado’s approach is too simplistic, too grandiose to acknowledge the complexities of political, economic and social forces. For example, The Workers, was posited on the laughable notion that manual labour would soon be redundant across the globe. However, decades later, gold and other valuable minerals are still being mined at high risk from hand dug pits, to ultimately produce consumer goods for the ‘developed’ world. Closer at home, try telling slaughter house and meat packing workers, or the guys who built your house, that manual labour is or soon will be redundant and they would rightly consider you both naïve and stupid.
Salgado, a prolific photographer with limited editing ability, relies on piling high his baroque confections, while hoping we won’t notice their lack of substance on-mass.
He also seems over a long period to be happy to accept funding from dubious sources. Currently Vale, as pointed out by Jim Hughes. Previously, for the tobacco industry, he photographed indigenous people in Papua New Guinea, in colour, wearing costumes modified to match the colours of the companies’ packaging and advertising.
The sad thing is that when working to tight constraints and with genuine limitations, Salgado’s output is much more effective. For example, his pictures showing the effects of drought in the Sahel region of Africa generally, to me, have a rigour and sense of truth, even though devoid of political content or analysis, which is largely lacking in the later works sentimentality. (Those pictures, made on tight budgetary constraints, were funded by windfall money that came from Salgado’s near exclusive pictures of the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, by John Hinckley Junior.)
It appears that the mechanisms and organisation that Salgado has built to complete his grand projects actually contradict his presumed intentions.

One word: intimidating.

Salgado is a great photographer. That said, I haven't bought the book yet; I feel the look is overdone and the layout of the photos is too splashy, too restless - an attack on the visual senses. Still considering the book, but I'm leaning towards the more critical audience.

And then there's the business with Vale.

Dear folks,

Okay, coming a little late to this party, because my copy of the book didn't arrive until Thursday and I didn't have a chance to look at it until yesterday. Now having done so, I'm very happy with it. I give it a solid A- and well worth the money. It's been a spendy month, and I was reluctant to part with another $50, but this was worth it.

A couple of caveats. First, I'm as susceptible as the next person to the whole “buying books by the pound” thing, so I was really thrilled when this MONSTROUS volume showed up. Weighs a ton, measures 10 x 14", has 500 PAGES of photographs. Woohoo! Got my money's worth [g].

Second, I've never seen the physical exhibit the book is based on. I can see how a body of work this large would be seriously daunting to view in the physical world. In a book, I can browse at my leisure.

Having said that, I don't think this is too much. I flipped through the book and looked at maybe 20% of the content. Yes, I see some redundancy. I'd probably throw out one in 10 photographs. Honestly, that's not a whole lot. It it's not like the ones I'd throw out would be bad, I just think they duplicate. As I said, in the real world, too much is a physical hardship. In a book, I can just turn the page.

In that same vein, I actually like having the huge amount of content. And I like the foldout pages with the “snapshot”-sized photographs that are variations on a theme. Instead of just getting a single point of view on a subject, I'm getting multiple ones from the artist. That's nice. I like the juxtaposition of large and small.

I am bothered by the double-truck landscapes. I don't see any way around it, not without restructuring the book in a way that would make it a lot more awkward and a lot more expensive, but it is distracting to have what are clearly unified coherent compositions split in the middle. With a lot of work, this doesn't bother me; I don't feel fanatical on this. Here, it does bother me. But, as I said, I can't think of an easy way around; most of those same photographs would lose a lot being run at half their size. It takes the book down a notch for me (along with the redundancy) which is why it gets only an A-.

I am simply not getting what people are commenting about with the photographs looking artificial or synthetic or overcooked, as one person put it. There's a style here––it's high drama black-and-white, more typical of 1970s sensibilities than today's, but it's a style. You see it in the late 1970s Ansel Adams books; you see it in Himalayas. It's the full orchestra-Tchaikovsky school of black-and-white aesthetics. It's the style Sabastio likes; He's pretty consistent about that. Some people just aren't going to be the audience for that, that's okay. But I don't see it as a specific problem with this body of work, it comes with his territory.

In any case, I didn't see anything that struck me as synthetic or abnormal. Not saying it's not in there, I only glanced at maybe one in five photographs. But a quick flip through the book isn't uncovering a big problem, so far as I can see.

Me, I'm sure glad I spent that $50.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

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