Sebastião Salgado's Genesis - How did he do it?
I was in London this weekend and I went to see the Salgado Genesis exhibition at the Natural History Museum. It's an astounding and fantastic show that left me awestruck, overwhelmed and inspired.
What I would have liked to learn however was which cameras, film and printing techniques he used.
I recently went to see the Ansel Adams show at the maritime museum and this kind of information was given. All prints were made by Adams himself, unless otherwise stated.
Some of the Salgado images seem optically impossible and to produce such an extensive corpus of work in a darkroom would be a feat all of its own. I would be very interested to know:
Which cameras does Salgado use?
What film does he use?
What paper are they printed on and are they darkroom prints?
Are these images digital and have they been developed and manipulated in Photoshop?
Whatever the answers are, the show is amazing and the images are mind-blowing. I can only recommend a visit to see these works which were obviously taken and made my a master.
If anyone has any information on his techniques, I would greatly appreciate answers or links to more information about his process.
EDIT: I just found this article which lists his equipment. It appears he uses digital technology. A Canon 1DS Mk III.
EDIT: I found this article which explains a little more
EDIT: I found this on the Ilford site:
I started Genesis with film and changed to digital. The airport X-Ray scanners degrade the quality of film, and so I decided to change to digital and was quite surprised. Quality was better than the one I had with negatives in medium format. I turned off the screen on the back of the camera, and used my camera as I have always done. When I came back to Paris, I printed contact sheets and edited the photos using a magnifying glass, because I don't know how to do it in the computer.
EDIT: More on his digital process. I guess I've answered all of my questions here.
On April 11th ILFORD Master Sebastiao Salgado's much anticipated Genesis exhibition will open its doors at the Natural History Museum in London.
Featuring 200 stunning black and white images printed on ILFORD GALERIE Prestige Gold Fibre Silk
, Genesis is Salgado's third (after Workers & Migrations) and perhaps last great photographic project.
What would you say to photographers who maintain that digital photography will never match the quality of analogue?
Previously, if you had an enlarger, to get a perfect print was very difficult. And today, well, you can have a perfect print from digital. What for me is a little bit scary, is just how realistic it is that these images will stay around forever. If you store them on hard disks, will they be accessible for a long time? So at this moment we create negatives for the most important pictures that I make with digital. We have a very nice process to transform an image into a negative in order to be able to store it. Because with negatives I’m 100% sure we can store the image for a very long time.
But, the digital system is still in total evolution. The cameras that I use, I started using very recently. We started in digital in 2008. Compared with the camera I used in 2008, the cameras that just have come out now are three times better in terms of quality than before, the quality that exists now is must better. For me one thing digital is fabulous for is low light shooting. I lose probably 95% of everything I shoot in very low light. And because I normally photographed people, and people move, to get a really strong picture I must shoot with the light is available. You cannot ask a person to stop while you put up your tripod for a portrait. I lose a lot of my pictures in this way. But today with digital you can shoot at such high sensibility. The potential for changing the behaviour of the camera and lens is incredible and in very very low light that gives you incredible opportunity. If I’d had this at the beginning of my life as a photographer, I tell you I’d have an incredible amount of nice pictures that I’ve lost. I’m very happy with the digital process, I believe that on average it’s much better in quality than analogue. It involves less pollution, because we don’t release chemicals from developing paper or a negative into the water system. We don’t have any more problems with x-rays in airports, which became hell for photographers. And the results now are fabulous. I’m very very happy with the results.
Last edited by Ghostman; 07-01-2013 at 06:41 AM. Click to view previous post history.
As long as you don't delude yourself that if you have the same equipment and employ the same techniques as he, you will be able to produce work of the same artistic merit, any more than if you buy a Leica it will turn you into Henri Cartier- Bresson.
I'm a little more realistic than that. I was interested in how he does it. If you're ever looking for me in an art gallery, I'll be the guy with his nose up against the picture to see if I can identify the weft of the paper or stroke of the brush. I believe you can't really understand what makes Ansel until you find yourself in front of one and you can see why. I was under the impression that Genesis was shot on film and when I saw the prints I thought 'if these are darkroom prints, I'll probably never see such craftsmanship ever again' - they are unbelievable and unbelievably good.
Knowing now that they are digital and printed by some industrial deep thought printing device makes the images easier to process in my mind.
Now edit: I still think Other Americas is his best work. I have 5 books from Salgado at home - I love him very much, but Genesis I will not buy - I think it is far from his best work that he did in Africa and South America.
Last edited by darkosaric; 07-01-2013 at 08:37 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Yes, digital..now the question: does that make you love the show and those images any less now that you know he's using a digital process?
Originally Posted by Ghostman
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And to add: I think discussion about Salgado's Genesis is more suitable for DPUG.
I heard that Bismark once said laws are like sausages - it's better not to see them being made. Maybe the same is true of great photographs.
Originally Posted by benjiboy
Not at all. It was clear to me that some images had been taken on film and it was clear that some had not. The quality of the prints is outstanding. I would have eaten my hat, shoes and underwear if that was all darkroom technique, thankfully I can rest easy as it is not. Each to his own and if that's his medium then so be it. I'm not a trainspotter, judge, jury nor executioner. I love art and I loved his. I thought the show was spectacular and it was just intriguing to me how he did it.
Originally Posted by MaximusM3
I'll take a shot at this strictly from memory so if I'm wrong please correct me.
Salgado is a trained economist and wanted to use Photography as a means to show conditions that different peoples worked and lived in in some areas of the world. When he first started out he used Nikon equipment and bulk rolled Tri-X and then some Kodak Iso 3200 film. In the beginning he did not want to talk about the photographic process but wanted his prints to speak for themselves. As he became well known Leica made him an "offer that he could not refuse" and he started using Leica equipment and talked a little more about the process. Later on he switched to digital for probably several reasons and appears to be somewhat of a spokesman for the process. I do not believe he ever did his own darkroom or lightroom work. At one time a well known French printer did all his processing and printing. I think the majority of his work has been done on film.
That he is more commercial now is normal. Things change. I do not want this to detract from his work. Salgado made work with a strong impact at the beginning when he rolled his own tri-x and I assume he still is with whatever he is using.
Thanks, I was just curious. At the end of the day, it's always about the image and the viewing/buying public is rarely concerned about the process. Of course, as photographers/printers, we are and we do what makes us happy, what's easier sometimes, and what gives great results. Now, if his latest work was from darkroom printing it may make me love it a bit more just because I know the incredible workmanship and knowledge that would go into making such prints..but again, those who appreciate such nuances and the skills required to produce a handmade print, are a minority (and probably always were anyway).
Originally Posted by Ghostman