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Photographer Salgado captures untouched nature in new UK show

Photographer Sebastiao Salgado talks to reporters at the preview of his exhibition "Sebastiao Salgado: Genesis" at the Natural History Museu
Photographer Sebastiao Salgado talks to reporters at the preview of his exhibition "Sebastiao Salgado: Genesis" at the Natural History Museu

By Li-mei Hoang

LONDON (Reuters) - Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado considers the eight years he spent documenting the world's most dramatic landscapes and indigenous communities a small price to pay for his art.

His latest exhibition, "Genesis", which opens at London's on April 11 Natural History Museum features striking monochrome images of lush rainforests, gigantic glaciers and Antarctic penguins alongside indigenous tribes such as the Brazilian Zo'e and Siberian Nenets.

"It was necessary to take eight years to photograph all of these," Salgado said gesturing towards his captivating images of albatrosses, whales and penguins from a trip to Argentina and Antarctica.

"It looks like a long time because for us, time goes very fast and eight years looks a lot but it is not in the speed of the planet, the speed of nature, it is nothing, eight years is nothing," he said.

The exhibition is Salgado's third long-term exploration of global issues, following his critically acclaimed "Workers and Migrations" series, which he hopes will help people to reflect on the nature in a different way.

"I wanted to present places that were untouched and remain so to this day. I want people to see our planet in another way, to feel moved and be brought closer to it," he said.

"I have the hope that people who come to see these pictures, will see our planet and see that we have incredible nature and we have an incredible mineral planet that is as alive as we are," he added.

Salgado, who is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, traveled to 32 countries which included the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador and Madagascar to help highlight the delicate balance of human relationships with nature and the plight of some of world's indigenous communities.

It is an exhibition filled with vivid memories for the photographer, who considers himself one of the most privileged people in the world to have visited the indigenous tribes featured in his latest exhibition.

"Going inside the forest with the (Amazonian) Indians, doing long walks with them, going to fish. We had no food...we slept everywhere, we did anything, we were so free," said Salgado.

"They live very well, they have incredible relations inside their society."

One of the last in a generation of traditional print photographers Salgado, 69, found the transition from film to digital easy, but admits he still edits his pictures the old-fashioned way by using contact sheets.

"I don't know how to edit in a computer ... they built contact sheets for me, and I did it with a loop like I did before all my life long," he said.

"I don't have Facebook, Twitter...I don't know how to switch on a computer. There are other things. I am a generation that saw other things. I am really not part of this. Not yet. Probably one day I will be," he said.

The photographer trained as an economist and worked for the International Coffee Organization before embarking on a career in photography when his wife Leila gave him his first camera in 1973 to document travels in Africa.

Salgado shows no signs of slowing down despite his age, with a busy schedule travelling to Brazil, Sumatra, New Guinea and Tanzania for various projects. But he hopes to return to the UK to visit Scotland.

"I have a big dream, which is to come to the north of Scotland one day and photograph there," Salgado said.

"It was probably the most beautiful light I've seen in all my life for black and white. The changing light. The incredible greys, the incredible skies, these landscapes. I have a hope one day if I can come to photograph Scotland for a long time, to do something in Scotland and use my time to drink some very nice Scottish whisky."

But for now, Salgado is content with his achievements so far.

"All my life long, I tried to do my pictures, completely in coherence with my way of life, with my ethics, with the ideologies, and I had comfort, taking my pictures."

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