R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Sebastião Salgado's photos inaugurate the David Brower Center gallery.

Ironic levity may have been our default mode until fairly recently,
but respectful gratitude is what we owe the great environmentalist
David Brower of the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, League of
Conservation Voters, and Earth Island Institute, and now the namesake
of an impressive new 50,000-square-foot eco-themed building in downtown
Berkeley. Housing both office and event space, with an organic
restaurant on the way, the Brower Center is a showcase for
state-of-the-art green technology that includes photovoltaic panels,
radiant heating/cooling, a bamboo-walled theater, and real-time online
energy monitoring. That’s already impressive, but in addition, artwork
on environmental themes ranging from biological/cultural diversity to
environmental justice — Art of Advocacy — will be exhibited
at the center’s ground-floor Hazel Wolf Gallery. Brower was an
ardent believer in visual communication, so it’s fitting that the
gallery’s inaugural show features the renowned Brazilian
photojournalist Sebastião Salgado. Then and Now,
curated and designed by Lélia Wanick Salgado, features
some two dozen of his dignified, sympathetic portrayals of various
indigenous peoples taken from previous book projects — Other
Americas
(1984); Workers: An Archaeology of the Industrial
Age
(1993); Migrations (2000); Sahel, the End of the
Road
(2004); and Africa (2007) — as well as from a
current project, Genesis, which depicts the natural world before
industrialization with, for example, an Antarctic iceberg, dunes in
Namibia’s Sand Sea, Sudanese Dinka cattle herders, São Paulo
toddlers, a southern right whale off Patagonia, and a Galapagos marine
iguana.

More typical of Salgado’s vast oeuvre are the photographs depicting
human life in the arduous Third World: Mexican farmers, Ethiopian
refugees, Sudanese boys, Sicilian fishermen, Brazilian gold miners,
Bolivian pewter miners, Ethiopian refugees, Brazilian Marubo Indians,
Rwandan refugees, Mexican wood delivery men, Brazilian Kamayura
shamans, Canadian oil-fire workers, a Guatemalan mother and daughter, a
Papuan mud man, and an Indian canal worker. It’s a vast catalog of
humanity that is often extremely somber in tone, reflecting the
subjects’ hard lives, though the images are never shallow or
exploitative. Salgado: “I very much like to work on long-term projects.
… There is time for the photographer and the people in front of the
camera to understand each other. … It’s not the photographer who
makes the picture, but the person being photographed. … If you take a
picture of a human that does not make him noble, there is no reason to
take this picture.” In sum, “photography … is the collective memory
of the world.” Through January 31, 2010, at Brower Center (2150 Allston
Way, Berkeley). BrowerCenter.org
or 510-809-0900.

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