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Quickie Review -The Salt of The Earth

I realize that we all view the world very differently and that art, in all of its many forms is subjective, but there is something about art that we own. We can view a film, a painting, a sculpture or music and writing in any way we see fit, and yes, we can own it. Not in the literal sense, but we can insert our own values, our own experiences and our own heart into it and make it mean anything we want. This, and only this, is why photography is different. We can relate a memory of a tree, a bridge or a cloud and possibly, just possibly we can own the same feeling as the person who stood on a hilltop and snapped that picture, but we can not, ever, own a portrait or a photograph of a person. Their entire life (or death) might be represented in that photograph and it is theirs. To believe that someone could take this, in their lowest moment, in their final breath, or even after and succeed, because of it, is disheartening. Don't you think?

In Wim Wenders' documentary on the life of Sebastio Selgado, we are introduced to one of the most famous living professional photographers. It is very important that we understand, that this man does not have a love of photography, this is never even roughly intimated in the film, he has a love for success. A burning desire to achieve, the perfect shot. He doesn't come about these pics by chance, but they are carefully constructed and framed, something we are shown in a ridiculous attempt to avert the attention of a polar bear. The movie starts with magnificent shots of gold mines in South America and we learn what these men have to endure...right after we hear what our brave subject had to endure. We learn of his not eating, because he was naive, with a pocket full of money. We learn his wife bought a camera and he took it and snapped photos all day. We learn his wife gave birth and he took off for months at a time, missing his child's youth. We learn about his second child's defect and how it affected he and his son. Then we learn about the camps in Rwanda and how these people fled their country....and then we learn "I went back." As if his business there were permanent. The entire movie is about the plight of humanity and not a single sentence starts with anything, but the word I.

If you like this for the aesthetics, I understand. If you're impressed and revere the man, I have as much respect for you, as I do for him. I get we admire what we view as greatness, but how great is asking someone who has slaved, and I do mean slaved, in the hot sun all day, to stand with a church, in the background, so you can post this picture in a book, then write a caption of the people's faith? Very rarely am I so disgusted by another human being, even those who commit atrocities, but this man's gloating, almost poetic recollections of other's plight and how he was there. How he with his camera, captured that moment, framed it just so, that the dying man's face, is perfectly placed, to show the disease he will die that night from, in comparison to his young widow-to-be's. I am still sickened and sadly, couldn't find anything through web searches that praise the man for either his philanthropy or his endeavors to help other than to say "some of the proceeds...."


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