The despair and suffering are sometimes too much for the old man as he peers at his photographs – Wenders projects them onto a screen and films Salgado through the glass so that he gazes right at the camera as he examines his work. "The number of times I had to lower the camera because I was weeping," he says. Inspired by his insight into suffering, Salgado and his wife meticulously plan further projects. One entitled Workers come as partly a social document and partly a paean to the women and men who have built the world around us. Another called Kuwait shows the aftermath of the first Gulf War when Saddam's retreating army set fire to hundreds of oil wells, an event that was also filmed by Werner Herzog in his poetic film Lessons of Darkness (1995).
However, the toll to Salgado begins to tell when he explores the plight of refugees which in turn takes him to Rwanda and the Congo and the sites of genocidal murder, including a school room with the chalk writing of the day's lesson on the blackboard and bones and skulls filling the floor of the victims. "No one deserves to live," Salgado says, but again it is his wife Leila who proves his most valuable collaborator. Returning to Brazil, she has the idea of reclaiming the exploited and drought ravaged landscape of his father's farm and re-planting rain forest. Her project has thrived and is now a National Park and a model for conservation and re-wilding. This has also inspired a late change in subject matter with Salgado turning his attention to the planet itself and in Genesis creating something of a love letter to the planet, and its flora and fauna. The Salt of the Earth is a glowing tribute to a committed and admirable artist. Wenders makes no attempt to critique or challenge his subject, and is content to let Salgado and his camera speak for themselves. And speak they do.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty