Salgado, who began his career as an economist, has long been drawn to humanistic themes. “We were activists, we studied Marxism… Labour was the power of everything,” he says. After years of witnessing horrific working conditions worldwide, however, Salgado was deeply disillusioned. The idea for “Genesis” was born as a means of reviving his optimism and celebrating a world left unscathed by mankind.
Among the most interesting parts of his journey reflected in this show is his close engagement with animals, ranging from a mammoth right whale in Argentina to a leopard, which he shot at nighttime in Namibia. “We had this lie that they tell us our whole lives that we are the only rational species. It’s not true,” insists Salgado. “If you respect the dignity, personality, the rationality of each species, you can survive with them.” Through large-scale prints with dramatic backlighting and monumental compositions, he conveys a vision of oneness; the creatures in his images possess the same gravitas as his human subjects.
At a time when our lives are oversaturated with images and the medium of photography has undergone seismic change, Salgado, like the remote subjects he captures, is part of a disappearing breed. While he describes his lengthy projects as a reflection of his interests, they are much more than an autobiographical journey. Viewed in the heart of the densely urban environment of Hong Kong, the works in this show appear almost surreal, jolting the viewer to pause and take stock. A sense of nostalgia and an archeological bent pervade his photographs as they commemorate a world that for many has already slipped out of reach.