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Review: Glory and grace in the photographs of Sebastiao Salgado

July 15, 2013|By Leah Ollman
  • A photograph of volcanoes in Kamchatka, Russia, is included in the exhibition at Peter Fetterman Gallery.
A photograph of volcanoes in Kamchatka, Russia, is included in the exhibition… (Amazonas/Peter Fetterman…)

Sebastião Salgado embarked on his "Genesis" project as a recovery mission -- for himself as much as for the planet. After decades documenting varieties of human and environmental degradation, the photographer set off in 2004 to record populations and landscapes untouched by modernity.

He sought evidence of people and places living in equilibrium, to affirm that it was still possible. Completed in 2011, "Genesis" offers a stunning visual antidote to the tougher, bleaker side of Salgado's output. The 400-print book and the nearly-50-print show at Peter Fetterman are pure celebration, all glory and grace.

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Clouds dramatically blur the peaks of grand volcanoes in an image from Kamchatka, Russia. A river slides like a silvery ribbon through a crack in the Brooks Range in a picture from Alaska. In a photograph made in Siberia, nomads face a windstorm with stoic dignity. An iguana's foot, shot close up, presents as if sheathed in an elegant metallic mesh glove.

Born in Brazil and based in Paris, Salgado trained as an economist, and the dynamics of labor and migration have defined much of his work. Here, the focus is not on the erosive forces of development but on the regenerative potential of awe. He crowns his project with a biblical title that suits the majesty of his subjects and offers the work as a beautifully articulated prayer for preservation and respect.

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Peter Fetterman Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 453-6463, through Jan. 4, 2014. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.peterfetterman.com 

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