For “Genesis,” an eight-year project now more than half completed, he is piecing together a visual story about the effects of modern development on the environment. Yet rather than document the effects of, say, pollution or global warming directly, he is photographing natural subjects that he believes have somehow “escaped or recovered from” such changes: landscapes, seascapes, animals and indigenous tribes that represent an earlier, purer — “pristine” is a favorite word — state of nature.
In this way “Genesis” is a grand, romantic back-to-nature project, combining elements of both the literary pastoral and the sublime. Mr. Salgado also describes it as a return to childhood, as he was raised on a farm in the Rio Doce Valley of southeastern Brazil — then about 60 percent rain forest — that suffered from terrible erosion and deforestation.
In short, while the Instituto Terra is the locally rooted arm of his environmental activism, “Genesis” is its globally minded, photo-driven counterpart. Since undertaking the series in 2004, he has visited some 20 different sites across 5 continents.