A new doc follows legendary photog Sebastiao Salgado

FILM by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Salt Of The Earth
RPL Film Theatre
May 7-10
3 out of 5

The Brazilian-born photographer Sebastiao Salgado is arguably one of the best in the world. He’s also not one to stay home and work in the comfort of a studio. Much of Salgado’s photography has been shot under extreme conditions, but his efforts have brought his subjects — and him — a lot of attention. After all, this is the man whose pictures drew attention to Africa’s famines — and the resulting migrations of refugees — in the ‘80s.

Salgado has photographed the most remote corners of the world and has found beauty in manual labour at its harshest (his book Workers is a must-have). In The Salt Of The Earth, director Wim Wenders (Pina, Wings of Desire) and Salgado’s son Juliano follow the 71-year-old photographer as he captures images for his book Genesis. Making the movie is an excuse to tell Salgado’s story: originally an economist, he changed gears in the late 70s without losing sight of the financial forces shaping the world.

In the beginning, Salgado’s work was socially charged and vibrating with beauty. In later years, the Brazilian has focused on the environment and human communities that have managed to remain untouched by modern times. How does he capture his remarkable images? He blends in with his surroundings — Salgado’s humility allows him to relate to others despite radically different backgrounds.

The first half of The Salt of the Earth is the most interesting: it unfolds as an origin story, growing pains and all. The rest drags a bit since the attention moves from Salgado to the ecological reserve he and his wife are building in a corner of the Amazon that was a deforested area not long ago. Nonetheless, it’s fascinating to observe a force of good facing the heart of darkness.