The Salt of the Earth

Dir. Juliano Ribeiro Salgado & Wim Wenders

Wim Wenders presents an epic tour of Sebastião Salgado's life's work, guided by the man who was there through it all - Salgado’s son, Juliano. This is a unique, carefully composed look at one of photography's greatest visionaries. But filming a photographer is a dual process, and Salgado's insights are as penetrating as his exposures ("The man shoots back!"). The Salt of the Earth offers us a glimpse of ourselves through Salgado's lens. To experience this from the master of his art is to realise that perhaps your eyes were only ever half open.

Born into luscious tranquillity in Brazil's Minas Gerais state, Salgado trained as an economist before abandoning a promising career to concentrate on photography. Travelling extensively, he witnessed a species struggling with itself: the Ethiopian famine, the Bosnian War, the Rwandan genocide. Salgado's work took on a new urgency as his portraits of human existence drew him deeper towards the subjects of suffering, resilience and hope. These themes would send him across dozens of countries, documenting multiple conflicts, poverty and catastrophes.

Salgado takes us through his photographic projects: ‘Other Americas’, ‘Sahel’, ‘Workers’, ‘Exodus’. Each episode explores tragedies of scale. The suffering is deeply moving, the elegance of its portrayal mesmerising. "Everyone should see these pictures, to see how terrible our species is." Through their beauty, we begin to see the human condition that Salgado seeks to capture. Slowly, our focus shifts from Sebastião's personal inspiration to far more perplexing questions of human purpose.

The Salt of the Earth follows an attempt to make sense of our species, from a single frame to the compilation of human experience. There is fatigue and difficulty, but there is also promise. The hope of these images is that their power will inspire us to act. This is a masterful homage to a pre-eminent photographer. Touched by Salgado's empathy and enthralled by his art, it feels like, for once, we really do see through the eyes of another.

Tomasz Frymorgen