Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado devoting his life’s work to preserving the planet

Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado has exposed the social and environmental problems facing the planet for more than 40 years.

The photographer’s black-and-white prints capture natural environments and the people who inhabit them. Using his images as a means of promoting preservation, Sebastião Salgado’s documentation of unblemished landscapes, wildlife, and indigenous communities demonstrate the urgent need to protect the planet.

He says: “What I want is the world to remember the problems and the people I photograph. What I want is to create a discussion about what is happening around the world and to provoke some debate with these pictures.”

Sebastião Salgado’s career was also the subject of 2015 documentary, entitled The Salt of the Earth, which was directed by his son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. The film followed the celebrated photographer’s travels around South America, including the countries neighbouring his native Brazil, spending time among and photographing native tribes, living lives not much touched by the modern world.

The film follows 40 years of Salgado’s work from South America, to Africa, Europe, the Arctic, and back home to Brazil focusing on international conflicts, starvation and exodus, and natural landscapes in decline. You can watch the trailer of The Salt of the Earth below.

Alongside his wife Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado, Sebastião Salgado has been instrumental in participating in the preservation and protection of the planet. In the late 1990s, the couple took on an ambitious project to return a former cattle ranch – bought from Sebastião Salgado’s family near the town of Aimorés, in Brazil’s state of Minas Gerais – to its natural state of subtropical rainforest.

They recruited partners, raised funds and, in April 1998, they founded the Instituto Terra, an environmental organization dedicated to the sustainable development of the Valley of the River Doce.

Valley of the River Doce is a region that for centuries has suffered from rampant deforestation and uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources, notably iron ore. The resulting droughts and severe land erosion have also had a devastating impact on the living conditions of the region’s rural population.

Once in a state of advanced natural degradation, the former cattle ranch that the Delgados bought has since been transformed into a fertile woodland, alive with flora and fauna which for millenniums had made the Atlantic Forest one of the world’s most important repositories of natural species.

Insituto Terra said: “The experience shows that, with the return of vegetation, water again flows from natural springs and Brazilian animal species at risk of extinction have again found a safe refuge.”

Instituto Terra manages the 1,754-acre Bulcão Farm, 1,502 acres of which have been declared a Private Natural Heritage Reserve (PNHR). It is the first such PNHR in a ravaged area of the Atlantic Forest.

With the reforestation of the Bulcão Farm, where the first planting took place in December 1999, the Instituto Terra is nearing completion of recovery of a single uninterrupted section of the Atlantic Forest. This is an unprecedented achievement in modern Brazil.

Inspired by Bulcão Farm’s success as a pilot project, in 2004 the state of Minas Gerais established the category of the Private Reserve for Environmental Restoration (PRER) to encourage other private property owners to follow suit.

Images: © Sebastião Salgado

Amazonas Images and Instituto Terra

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. I write about sustainable lifestyle and green living for publications, and I offer content services to planet-friendly businesses. Find out more at 


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