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Renowned Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado, now 80, presents a retrospective of his 50-year career in London, emphasizing the need to raise awareness about global deforestation.

Sebastiao Salgado, the 80 year-old Brazilian photographer, is showcasing a retrospective of his 50-year career at Somerset House in London until May 6. The exhibition, which follows his recognition by the World Photography Organisation for his life’s work, features a selection of his hundreds of thousands of photographs, each representing a significant moment in his life.

“Photography is the mirror of society,” Salgado says, summarizing his work over the past half-century, which has been focused on nature conservation for many years. “People tell me I’m an artist, but I tell them no, I’m a photographer, and it’s a great privilege to be one. I’ve been an emissary of the society I’m part of.”

After studying economics, Salgado began taking photographs in 1973 and has never stopped. In 1998, he and his wife Lelia created the Instituto Terra to reforest the Brazilian Amazon and the planet in general. “We have lost 18.2% of the Amazon. But it’s not just Brazilians or other countries in the region that have destroyed it, it’s our consumer society, because of a terrible need for consumption and profit,” he accuses.

Salgado wants to “make people aware that together we can do things differently.” He believes that by doing so, “we can save this great forest on which we depend for biodiversity and also this great cultural reserve that are the indigenous tribes living in the Amazon.”

However, deforestation is not his only concern. He also speaks about climate change and water scarcity. “There is a second drama, just as important as global warming, which is the loss of water,” he warns. Salgado cites southern France as an example, “a place where it has always rained and, where, for a few years now, villages are being supplied by tanker trucks in the summer.”

“This is something that used to happen in Africa and is now happening in Europe; we are losing water,” he worries. The photographer is also alarmed by the decline in biodiversity, “at a frantic pace.” He cites Germany as an example, which has lost “70% of its biodiversity over the past 40 years.”

“We have to do something,” he pleads. “It’s not that people are bad, it’s just that there is a lack of information and awareness,” the photographer insists.

Salgado speaks of the years he has left. “I have 50 years of career behind me, and I am 80 years old. I am closer to death than to anything else. (…) But I continue to photograph, I continue to work, I continue to do things in the same way,” he explains.

“I have no worries or pretensions about how I will be remembered. It’s my life that’s in the photos and nothing else,” he concludes.

Sebastiao Salgado’s retrospective serves as a powerful reminder of the urgent need to address global environmental issues, particularly deforestation and the loss of biodiversity. Through his photographs, he has been a witness to the changes in our planet over the past 50 years and continues to raise awareness about the importance of taking action to protect our environment. As he enters the twilight of his life, Salgado’s message remains as relevant as ever, urging us to come together and make a difference before it’s too late.

With AFP