Sebastago Salgado's, Genesis is a massive book so this may be a massive review. While Some people have claimed to need a larger house to fit the book into, I think that this is a slight exaggeration. The book is so large I am reviewing it in sections in the order that they appear in the book.
Is a world without humans but plenty of animals, there is outstanding work here and it shows, Antarctica and surrounding area, in a dramatic harsh, life or death kind of way. beautiful yes undoubtedly but a harsh landscape. Also amazing shots of the sea and waves themselves often in stormy conditions. The sea/landscapes are one of the highlights of this book.
The Galapagos part of this section is amazing and a very different way of seeing the Islands The images of the wildlife are outstanding. The tribal part of sanctuaries has some images on studio backgrounds. Salgado is one of the worlds greatest living documentary photographers, but not one of the the worlds greatest portrait photographers. His images of people in Terra, struggle of the landless are much stronger and more outstanding than his studio style images, that are similar to early 19th century ethnographic images. These images take people out of there context and make them look like attractive objects. His work in Terra or Workers has amazing photos of people in the context of there lives and struggles.
The photos of Africa justify there own book or even several books. Some of the sets of work are especially strong. The wildlife set is extra strong, some of the sets of photographs are the strongest park of the book. The African images are the most mythic part of the book. Africa was the first place there were people so we may feel on some deep level that Africa is more mythical than other places. The tribal people of the Russian steps, and the amazon are relatively recent by comparison. The some of the African images feel as if taken out of time.
This section has the best photographs in the book including the cover. My only question is why the American southwest are included other than the fact that they look good. This section is all about the north the Arctic circle, so has no connection with the Grand Canyon. The photos of the North make the whole book worthwhile as they are stunning. The work on the neets reindeer people is outstanding and as good as any of his other work. The Northern landscapes are just as dark and powerful as they should be.
Amazonia and Pantanal
The outstanding images are of waterfalls, rivers, mountain rain forests, boats and myst. These are deeply peaceful photographs. The people images are less impresive than the landscape images. The thing with studio style portraits is that they could have been taken in London Tokyo or New York and as such are not a close fit with the majestic wild images of the book.
Concept Behind the book
It is a interesting feature of this book is it's timelessness. It could have been conceived of a hundred years ago. Genesis translates as the beginning or start of creation. So the book is set in a mythical past. The people in the book all exist now but all developed at different times in human history. We now know that the tribes photographed in the Amazon rainforest only came to exist as we now them now within the last five hundred years, as a reaction to European invasion and diseases, they are the remains of a civilization the shatterd survivers of a biological desaster. They are a true creation of the Modern World. The most ancient people in the book would be the bushmen of Africa whos genetics and life style are truley ancient.
However on a photographic level the book is a resounding sucess. It could perhaps be several books or even more heavily edited to make it even stronger and to the point. If it had been a book with no people just landscapes and animals it would have been closer to Gensis, which is odd for one of the worlds greatest documentary photographers. However in conclusion while not faulteless it is a great work and his best landscape work to date if not his best documentary work. I will add iceberg castle p21, the river in Alaska ( Front Cover ) to the best photographs i have ever seen.