Photographer Sebastião Salgado show opens in Jeddah

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Updated 05 May 2016
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Photographer Sebastião Salgado show opens in Jeddah

Spending most of his time clicking epic photographs of gold mines, oil fields, and genocide, Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado has won several awards for his compassionate black and white images.
To showcase his most outstanding work, Hafez Gallery is hosting his solo exhibition that will run throughout the month of May.
Born on Feb. 8, 1944, in Aimorés in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, Salgado seeks out the most amazing and heartrending images of lifecycle on Earth. His photographs encapsulate and touch humanity. Instead of recording human victories, he took refuge in its flaws. He used all of his strength and energy to penetrate the worst parts of human life today and transform them into beautiful works of art that adorn museum walls and art connoisseurs’ walls.
“The boundless curiosity has not only helped me to bring diversity to my work, but also extended to the different cultures, people and places I have been to or explored throughout my photography career,” he said.
This is the first time Salgado’s work has been exhibited in Saudi Arabia. Commenting on his visit, he said, “I am so excited that my work is exhibited for the first time in the Kingdom and I am honored that it is being admired by a large number of people. I hope to leave an impact of my vision and experience.”
Most of Salgado’s work will show something incredible and unbelievable but yet absolutely genuine. All the images shot are bizarrely timeless and disorienting. Pictures like gold grubbers assembled in an opencast mine prove his piercing gaze and high sensitivity that allowed him to uncover beauty in the middle of ugliness. He discovered wisdom through pain, recording light where there are shadows.
Salgado studied economics until he got his master’s degree in 1967. He married Lélia Wanick in the same year and they both moved to Paris so that he can pursue his PhD in economics. In 1971, he was sent to Rwanda to study the agriculture production abilities of the country’s economy while working as an economist in the International Coffee Organization.
Describing his journey as a photographer, he said, “I borrowed my wife’s camera and used it during my trip to Africa.” He took his first picture in 1970. After coming back home, he discovered that the pictures he took described his vision of Africa much better than the written reports he did. This was the turning point of his life. That is when he decided to change careers, from economy to press photography. He started out as a freelance photographer for many photography agencies and got hired in the best one, Magnum Agency, working there for 15 years.
In 1994, he founded along with his wife Amazonas Images, a press agency dedicated to his works. Through it, he launched the beautiful series of artistic works that have had an impact on the world.
Moreover, Lélia and Salgado together have worked since the 1990’s on the restoration of a small part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. In 1998 they succeeded in turning this land into a nature reserve and created the Instituto Terra. The Institution is dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation and environmental education. However, it was able to plant more than two million trees, which completely revived the circle of life, especially in Minas Gerais.
Salgado says that he thinks he has found a solution to the climate change that the planet is suffering from through this project. He said, “We need to listen to the words of the people on the land. Nature is the earth and it is other beings and if we don’t have some kind of a spiritual return to our planet, I fear that we will be compromised.”
In addition to this, he highlighted the famine and emigration in Africa and poverty in South America, in one of the most important social projects ever under the title ‘Workers’ (1993). “In this project the main aim was to shed light on the way a man used to work with his hands before transitioning to the mechanized world,” he said.
Besides, he visited more than 100 countries in order to document the world of gold mining in Brazil, steel workers and solid workers in India and the petrol pipelines firefighters of Kuwait.
Working in black and white, his efforts depict great photography in the classic and humane tradition while expressing deep facts of life. He is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States, Comendador da Ordem de Rio Branco in Brazil, and Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France.
Likewise, under a project named ‘Genesis’ he presents the unblemished faces of nature and humanity.
It consists of a series of photographs of landscapes and wildlife, as well as of human communities that continue to live in accordance with their ancestral traditions and cultures. This body of work is conceived as a potential path to humanity’s rediscovery of itself in nature.
By turning his lens on the planet, he is able to click incredible pictures such as of giant ice sculptures carved by sea water, penguins leaping into the ocean from an iceberg and a man praying in the middle of the desert.
The book ‘Genesis’ published by Taschen in six languages, came out in spring 2013. A touring exhibition is currently presented in several countries.
Furthermore, Salgado’s documentary named ‘The Salt of the Earth’ was an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature in 2015 and was also nominated in Cannes Film Festival in 2014.
Walking by the gallery, the audience is pulled up by every shot that seems like one of the best photographs ever taken.

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Sheikha Alyazia’s ‘mishmash’ of ancient and modern

Her “Mishmash Trails” featured cave-like shapes cut in marble, with the treasure taking the form of imagined ancient eastern coins. (Supplied)
Updated 23 July 2019
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Sheikha Alyazia’s ‘mishmash’ of ancient and modern

  • Inside the Emirati artist’s inaugural solo exhibition in London, ‘I Met a Traveler From an Antique Land’

LONDON: You are searching for treasure. Several potential locations are marked with an ‘x’ on your map. You move methodically from site to site, always to be met with disappointment — never striking gold. Are you, in following trails set by others, missing the treasure ‘hidden’ in plain view?

This is one of the conundrums posed in the artworks of Sheikha Alyazia Bint Nahyan Al-Nahyan, whose inaugural solo exhibition in London presented a thought-provoking range of work fusing the ancient past with modern life.

Her “Mishmash Trails” featured cave-like shapes cut in marble, with the treasure taking the form of imagined ancient eastern coins, reflecting Arab, Roman and Phoenician influences. She described the coins, embedded in the marble, as symbolic of the great treasures buried in secret locations that were sought out and fought over by many. 

Al-Nahyan named her exhibition — held at Pi Artworks from June 25 to July 7 — with the opening line of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous poem “Ozymandias”: “I met a traveler from an antique land.” (Ozymandias is the Greek name for the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II.)

Mishmash Dirham. (Supplied) 

The poem, published in 1818, imagines a meeting between the narrator and a traveller who describes a ruined statue lying in the desert. The description of the statue is a meditation on the fragility of human power and on the effects of time: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings/Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!/Nothing beside remains: round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

“Maybe a positive thing from looking to the past is that it proves it is only human to repeat the mistake and the lesson,” Al-Nahyan told Arab News. “Studying the past is a realization of human nature, individually or in groups, right or wrong. This natural feeling of connectivity is something I usually aim for.”

There is humor in some of her work — particularly the depictions of old commercial airline advertisements from the 1950s and 60s with ancient figures superimposed in the frames. They certainly give the viewer pause for thought about how much our world has changed in the short time since air travel became widely available.

The exhibition’s curator, Janet Rady, said of Al-Nahyan: “She has been practicing art from a very young age and is self-taught. She is incredibly talented, and you see this in the wide range of her work, which uses all sorts of different media. I can’t necessarily call her a pop artist or a collage artist or an installation artist; she is in fact all of these things, but it is the concept behind her work — connecting the past with the present — which is important.”

The UAE’s UK ambassador, Mansoor Abulhoul, was present at the opening and he particularly admired Al-Nahyan’s works based on the classic wooden board game Carrom paired with a modern video game.

Carrom Station in Motion. (Supplied) 

“I first played Carrom with my cousins as a boy, and she has combined it with modern computer games, which is very creative,” he said. He pointed out that her innovative work ties in well with the dynamic of the UAE.

“Next year we have EXPO 2020, with its theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ It’s very much about our roots and how we take them forward, how we develop the mind and global cooperation,” he said. 

The exhibition included a short clip from Al-Nahyan’s upcoming film “Athel,” written by Al-Nahyan’s sister, Sheikha Shamsa. It centers on a strange encounter in the desert between a pre-Islamic poet and a modern-day TV presenter. “Athel” is set for release later this year and stars Hala Shiha and Mansour Al-Fili.

“The idea behind it all is taken from the tradition of Arabic poetry — its wisdom and, sometimes, risks,” Al-Nahyan explained. “And ending with a realization of one tribal law putting redemption and family before all.” She added that there are some “light-hearted” moments in the film too.

Arabic poetry is an ongoing inspiration for Al-Nahyan’s work, adding another layer of meaning to many of her pieces.

“The Arabic language is poetic, and Arabs and other cultures around the world have documented their lives through poetry,” she said. “So, for example, when tackling the topic of what is considered treasure, we found different meanings in various verses. Like when (pre-Islamic poet) Zuhair Bin Abi Salma refers to glory as the only true treasure.”

There is a much to absorb and reflect on in this exhibition which opens windows into many facets of Arab history and culture and poses universal questions about humanity and what constitutes real treasure.