Sebastião Salgado does not need a presentation. In October 2017, the photographer was in Milan to promote his book and the exhibit, Kwait. A desert on fire. A couple of thousand people attended the event.

Sebastião Salgado, Kuwait. A desert on fire

Sebastião Salgado, Kuwait. A desert on fire. Fondazione Forma per la fotografia Milano

We arrived at the location in front of Forma Gallery around 9:45 AM. At that time the situation was manageable. Cristina set the tripod and I found an available chair.

The presentation was expected to start at 11:30 AM, so we patiently managed to wait for the show to begin. In the meanwhile, Galleria Meravigli – a miniature “Galleria” in the business district, built in 1930 to connect via Meravigli to via Gaetano Negri, now a shopping center – slowly began to be filled by a quiet crowd of fans of the photographer, to a point that – for obvious issues of safety – the start itself of the event, until the very last minute, was in question.

Nevertheless, the meeting began on time. Sebastião Salgado’s speech followed the testimony of Mike Miller, a Canadian firefighter and an old  acquaintance of the photographer. The man was in charge of extinguishing some 700 fires set ablaze in the Kuwait desert by the Iraqi army during the I Gulf War. You can hear what Salgado said on YouTube, since this is what he is repeating times after times with small variations since circa 2010, not to mention Wim Wenders’ documentary The Salt of the Earth,  about Sebastião Salgado, co-directed with the photographer’s son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.

As these pictures may illustrate, this show ended-up being more about the people attending the show than about Salgado himself.

At the end, the once-economist photographer answered a couple of questions from the public. Since he could treat horror so smoothly did he think one day photography could start a revolution? Sebastião replied that “horror” is not what he things of the tragedies he has witnessed in the most battered corners of the world; instead, he prefers to define that as the work of man. That is not horror, it’s just what human beings are, and revolutions are started by men, not by photographers or by photographs. If we want a change, it’s up to each of us.

To the question which had been his most demanding reportage, he declared that the next assignment is always the most promising in terms of challenge and that when he is on an assignment, he feels enthusiastic and physically powerful. As his friend Gianni Berengo Gardin (the Magnum photographer, seated among the public), when he gets back from a tour, thats when he feels the infirmities of the “old age”. He even broke a knee in Paris, after a work trip. Photography makes him always feel alive and well.

To mark 25 years passed from the Kuwait fires, 34 large black&white images by Sebastião Salgado are exhibited for the first time in a new arrangement in a show at the Forma Meravigli Gallery. A reportage which is a warning not to forget the drama of that not so distant past.

Sebastião Salgado, Kuwait. A desert on fire
October 20th 2017-January 28th 2018
Fondazione Forma per la fotografia
Milano, via Meravigli
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(All pictures in this page take with a Nikon D810, Nikkor 24-120 ƒ/4mm mount, mostly with this setting: 1/160″ ƒ/4 ISO 2500)


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