Landscapes with a purpose

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An exhibition unites Sebastião Salgado’s passion for virgin nature with images of pioneers of 19th-century photography

From the sand dunes that wind through the Tadrart Desert (Algeria) to the ancient and twisted trees of the forests of California’s White Mountains. From the grandeur of the Negro River in the Amazon to the immaculate shroud of the Perito Moreno Glacier, in Argentine Patagonia. An exhibition at the Royal Palace in Madrid unites the remote landscapes of lands almost never desecrated by man, captured by Sebastião Salgado’s camera, and the images of the Royal Collections. The exhibition PHotoEspaña, which can be seen from May 31 to September 4 and entitled ‘Sebastião Salgado. Encounters around landscape photography’, connects those pioneers who depicted nature with the contemporary view of the Brazilian artist.

In the exhibition you can admire 12 spectacular black-and-white images of Salgado and 67 works by Charles Clifford, Jean Laurent, Enrique Facio and Kusakabe Kimbei, great photographers of the 19th and early 20th centuries whose works belong to the rich collection of the Archivo General de Palace.

The Sebastião Salgado you see now is not the one who devoted himself to social photography and portrayed the misery of Serra Pelada, a hellish place where an army of enslaved workers swarmed feverishly for gold. Exhibited in Madrid, Sebastião Salgado is the artist who has gone out of his way to search for unknown lands, for prints of deserts and volcanoes, forests and glaciers, seas and islands.

Traumatized by the horrors of war, with its depravities and massacres, Salgado replaced the war scene with nature. He is now a landscape portraitist and environmentalist who founded the Terra Institute, a project of the photographer and his wife Lélia Wanick. Thanks to this initiative, the Aimorés region in Brazil has been ecologically restored.

19th-century landscapes feature images by well-known and anonymous artists. Each time these pioneers went on a mission at the behest of Elizabeth II, they always tried to capture a sublime feeling. “They are very similar pictures, but they evoke the same attitude towards nature, which appeals to the feelings of the soul. That’s why we thought it might be interesting to combine the different perspectives that share the wonder of nature,” says Claude Bussac, director of PHotoEspaña and curator of the exhibition. The evocative landscapes created in the 19th century cover the whole world, from Sri Lanka (ancient Ceylon) to Madagascar, via Equatorial Guinea. Despite the fact that Salgado’s work is many years later, the common thread is clearly visible.

Much of these collections exist thanks to Elizabeth II’s fondness for photography, a taste that Charles Clifford encouraged. With him, a graphic project took shape that enriched the archives with, among other things, views and landscapes, portraits, snapshots of public works, art and cultural events.

Source: La Verdad

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