At the Salgado Retrospective


I’m at the center for international photography at the Salgado exhibit. Salgado is a bit of a star and I do enjoy his work, and this retrospective didn’t change that. But oddly enough I, found myself wondering more, not less, what his work is actually doing. It’s not really documentary photography. It has too rich a mixture of indexical, faux-objective elements with others that are much more about the beauty of the print and which are really subjective, even polemical in intent. The work is very beautiful, romantic and compelling and textured, but a bit evasive about its real intent. Which one can be in no doubt is in support of S’s global ecological viewpoint. That he makes work which speaks about this in poetic ways is not really hard to see, but I wonder about the degree of manipulation and the extent to which it is simply presented as the natural drama of landscape. Still more when he is taking pictures of people. The unnamed (usually) subjects are depicted in support of a personal project, a personal thesis. They are not portraits, nor are they studies with an avowedly “objective” intent. They are a little problematic in that sense. They are framed in the same intensely personal point of view Salgado deploys in his landscapes, with their sometimes tilted horizons, hand toning, and smashed spatial relationships when he crops an extreme zoom.

Yet I am pressed, finding things to object to. There is no “innocent” eye, after all, and Salgado makes no mystery about the song his work is singing. Maybe it is enough to realise simply that this is made work, not the elemental projection it might seem, and enjoy its great beauty and technique for the subjectively expressive output it is.