The International Center of Photography (ICP), conveniently located at Sixth Avenue and 43rd Street, is moving down to Noho, near the New Museum, for the usual set of real-estate related reasons. With a new Executive Director and new space, the move may prove to be an exciting opportunity for an institution that, decades ago, led by Cornell Capa, brother of war photographer Robert Capa, pioneered photography as art worthy of a museum.
Genesis, a monumental exhibition by one of the most important photographers of our era, Brazilian-born Sebastiao Salgado, may be ICP’s last exhibition in these quarters, and it is not only a staggeringly beautiful collection of more than 200 black-and-white images, but an exhibition with a message: climate change is real; climate change poses a major threat to our world; we must work to protect the earth.
Salgado’s message is conveyed visually by showing us five geographical regions of the earth – arctic and desert landscapes, tropical rainforests, marine and other wildlife, stone-age communities – relatively untouched by so-called ‘civilization,” and the ravages of climate change. It is also communicated by Salgado himself on a downstairs television monitor screen where he talks about the dangers of climate change and our obligation to protect the pristine places depicted in his exhibition.
Salgado emphasizes the brooding, primordial nature of his unpopulated landscapes by shooting in black-and-white. It’s as though he is saying, this is how the bones of earth – Eden — looked before man despoiled it. It’s an artfully manipulated vision of past-as-present, which highlights the multiple textures of land, sea and vegetation he so lovingly captures. His large prints also seem to double the impact of his message and vision.
We begin in Northern Spaces then move south to what he calls, Sanctuaries, places like the Galapagos and remotes parts of Indonesia and Siberia, where animals and stone-age people are protected.
Next comes Africa and what he calls Planet South. Even though we think we’ve seen powerful photographs from these regions before, Salgado still manages to surprise and impress us with the originality of his subject matter and the technical perfection of his images. Even his elephants – have we not seen elephants before? – are spectacularly monumental.
Salgado’s mission to capture nature in its original state began in 2004. It was preceded by two other long-term series, Workers (1993) and Migrations (2000). Taken together, his work is an old-fashioned humanistic cri-de-coeur – with up-to-date technology — about the way we treat and mistreat the earth and its peoples.
Salgado works closely with his wife, Lelia Wanich Salgado. She designs his stunning and often oversized books, published by Taschen, is director of Amazonas Images, which she co-founded with her husband, and is president of the Instituto Terra, which they created in 1998.
This is an exhibition not to be missed, and it may be the last one you see in this venue.
Salgado at ICP: GENESIS
International Center for Photography
Sept.19, 2014 – January 11, 2015
Images by Eleanor Foa Dienstag