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Amazon At Somerset House

Sebastião Salgado and Per Anders Pettersson give new meaning to the phrase 'what you see is what you get'

Written by . Published on December 13th 2011.


Amazon At Somerset House

UNLIKE most art and photography exhibitions, ‘Amazon’ is not encrypted with hidden codes and messages for its viewers to seek out. The exhibition serves its sole purpose as a direct and effective method of raising awareness about the mass deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. The fact that the show has been extended from  4 to 18 December further enhances not only its popularity, but also its importance. As ever, Somerset House seeks to please the masses. Only this time, the impact is incredibly humbling. 

Whilst Salgado’s images capture the Amazon in it’s most  pristine form, with an extraordinary insight to some of its indigenous tribes, Pettersson’s body of work documents the deforestation in the state of Acre, northwest Brazil.

The exhibition fuses together the breathtaking collections of award-winning photographers Sebastião Salgado and Per Anders Pettersson. Whilst Salgado’s images capture the Amazon in it’s most  pristine form, with an extraordinary insight to some of its indigenous tribes, Pettersson’s body of work documents the deforestation in the state of Acre, northwest Brazil. Sky and WWF have joined forces to create the charity Rainforest Rescue. Their aim is to save one billion trees in Acre, through supporting local industry. Pettersson’s photographs also unveil the charity’s aims and successes so far.

Of the three rooms devoted to Pettersson’s photography, one is largely made up of the images of local children. He seeks to represent the vulnerability of the rainforest as well as the fact that communities are able to continue living in the rainforest due to new installments in conservation. There is a particularly striking image of three children posing in front of their home. They stand for the future of the rainforest. Their parents support the cause by harvesting food without deforesting and fire. They represent the cooperation that has made the charity such a success, and the ways in which it will benefit future generations.

Sebastião SalgadoSebastião Salgado

The final set of images from Pettersson display the shocking evidence of deforestation. Patches of trees ripped up, leaving gaping wholes like a troubling, incomplete jigsaw puzzle. The images confirm that deforestation is responsible for up to a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Salgado’s images provide a stark contrast . They are in black and white and are primarily concerned with the untouched parts of the rainforest, and the untainted aspects of humanity. The images are taken from the photographer’s ongoing photographic essay, ‘Genesis’, and are defined as ‘humanity’s rediscovery of itself and nature’. He provides a startling insight into the lives of ancient tribes, the Alto Xingu and the Zo’ é. Both of which live in harmony with their surroundings. Salgado showcases humanity in its truest, rawest state, from body paint and clothing, to ritual and dance.

There is an outstanding photograph of a Zo’ é Indian hunter swinging between the trees in chase with a monkey. The image emits and overwhelming sense of magic. To the viewer, this man is the real Tarzan. Western ideology tends to teach the importance of respecting myth and legend, and Salgado cleverly pitches his cause so that we want to protect the magic within this startling image. Of course, in order to do so, we must first protect the rainforest.

Per Anders PetterssonPer Anders Pettersson

Another particularly enchanting image is of four naked tribal women clutching hands as they cross the raging waters of the Juruà River. Their expressions identically calm and their bodies strong. They do not fight what is natural but they live their lives according to it. The image of an elderly tribal woman with her pet monkey perched on her back represents the nurturing, protective qualities inherent to humankind. Qualities we should all embrace to enable Rainforest Rescue to reach its goals. Just £20 helps to save 1,000 trees.

For more information about how to support the charity, visit sky.com/rainforestrescue

2 November –18 December

Somerset House

© Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas/nbpictures. The State of Amazonas, Brazil. 2009

© Per-Anders Petterson

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