Kuwait: A Desert on Fire | Sebastião Salgado


Kuwait: A Desert on Fire
by Sebastião Salgado

Nicholas Metivier Gallery is pleased to present its third solo exhibition with internationally renowned documentary photographer Sebastião Salgado. The exhibition coincides with the release of Salgado’s new book, Sebastião Salgado – Kuwait: A Desert on Fire, published TASCHEN. The exhibition will open on May 4th and run until May 27th with and opening reception on Thursday, May 4th. Kuwait: A Desert on Fire is a featured exhibition for the 2017 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.

In April 1991, following the end of the First Gulf War, Sebastião Salgado travelled to Kuwait on assignment for the New York Times Magazine. Over 600 oil wells had been set ablaze by Iraqi forces after their occupation of Kuwait was thwarted by a US-led coalition. The region was in the midst of one of the worst man-made environmental catastrophes in recent history. Firefighters from around the globe, including the Safety Boss Team from Calgary, Alberta, had been sent to Kuwait to cap the wells and put out the massive fires.

Arriving in the Ahmadi Oil Fields, 20 miles south west of Kuwait City, Salgado came across a desert engulfed in flames, covered in oil and smothered in a thick black smoke. For one month, Salgado documented this apocalyptic landscape and the firefighters that worked relentlessly, despite the horrendous conditions. At the end of each day, the firefighters would bathe themselves in a man-made lake with gasoline and detergent to cleanse their oil-soaked bodies. Salgado carried a water bottle filled with gasoline to remove the oil from his hands and camera lens, prior to taking his photographs.

During his time in Kuwait, Salgado engaged with the firefighters, gaining their trust and respect. This is evidenced by the remarkable candidness shown by the men in his black and white photographs. Salgado was inspired by the firefighters’ professionalism and spirit. To him, they were the true heroes of the First Gulf War.  Salgado’s images are surreal reminders of the devastation suffered in Kuwait as a result of war and pay homage to the men who worked to contain the disaster.

A selection of photographs from Kuwait were published in a feature for The New York Times Magazine in 1991 and were part of Salgado’s photographic essay, Workers (1993). The majority of the photographs were archived and never released.  In 2016, the complete project was revisited to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the First Gulf War.

Born in Brazil in 1944, Salgado has been the recipient of numerous photographic prizes in recognition of his accomplishments, including the Gold Medal Award for Photography from the National Arts Club in New York. Several books have been published on Salgado’s work including Workers, Migrations and Genesis. Salgado was part of the well-known cooperative agency, Magnum Photos, for 15 years before founding his own agency, Amazonas images, in Paris with his wife Léila Wanick Salgado. Since 2013, Genesis has been touring to leading museums around the world including the British Museum, London, UK; International Centre of Photography, New York; Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; Ara Pacis Museum, Rome and the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. A 2015 documentary film on the life and work of Salgado, The Salt of The Earth, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award. Most recently, Salgado was appointed to the prestigious Académie des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France.

— – —

Kuwait: A Desert on Fire
by Sebastião Salgado

more at Metivier Gallery

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s