Adventure requires courage. Travelling requires guts. Doing just that for a living is a precious treasure and a massive load. Although travelling is mostly leisure, at least for most people in the first world, it can also represent an obligation or a job.

Both merge into the figure of Sebstião Salgado, an economist turned into a world-acclaimed photographer that is also, above all, an excellent human being. There are a lot of critics, as usual, to his work. Of all this critics, most haven’t even moved a finger to tackle some of the issues of human condition and nature that Salgado has tackled over more than three decades of magnificent photography. So, no time to waste with them for now.

Salgado has been a man on the move for all his life, a soul adventurer with such sensibility that he turned his interest in photography as a mirror for us, modern societies, to look at all our collective embarrassment. The only way to that was to travel a lot, to get to remote places and all of those spots where most of us wouldn’t even dare to take a step. Nor acknowledge that these spaces conform a part in our reality. Wars, famines, death, slavery, that’s what he talks about.

There’s no explanation for it, but Salgado is an excellent storyteller. And he tells the most important stories, the ones we don’t hear about everyday. Those that remain hidden. I’m sure he only got so good at it because he gave up on his comfort zone when he was young to picture his peculiar travels. His eyes, and his words, even if just in his biopic ‘Le sel de la terre’, become a fast reminder of all human misery and, thankfully, hopefulness.

Let’s hear him a bit, now.

“They were not slaves, they were only slaves to the idea of getting rich. Everyone who touches gold never leaves it”, he says about a group of gold miners in Brazil. But then things get more serious, and he gets to a point where he no longer believes in our species.

“We humans are a ferocious animal, a terrible thing. We are ruled by extreme violence. Our history is the history of war. A neverending history, a crazy history, a history of repression”. In here, he is reflecting on his experiences in Africa or even closer to ‘home’, to western civilization, like the Balkans. Salgado, after a trip to Rwanda, was done with all of it.

“I was sick, but not with an infectious disease, my soul was sick”, he reflects, with his eyes moisted. “I retired after that (Rwanda), I didn’t think anyone deserved living”. After that, he didn’t get back into social photography, at least not directly.

At this point, we could be faced with a total morale meltdown. Fuck it, we have no remedy. But he found otherwise turning his attention into nature, into Genesis. Most places on Earth, he found out the next several years, were still untouched and remained the same they were centuries, millenniums ago.

Salgado has such a sensibility for nature and animals, and his poetic and canvas worthy pictures –which gained him a lot of criticisim in the social area–, conform a virtuous circle that makes the viewer turn all the negativity into positivity. We could still be different, we could still save the planet.

And one relevant thing. He leads by the example with his project at Instituto Terra, which has reforested a great area of his natal town in Brazil. We can undo the damage, we can still be humans. The best way to learn this is to travel and get to know other places, understand cultures and environments, challenge all your knowledge and doubt of all your actions.

The film director says that a photographer is someone who writes with light. I would dare to say that, a good one, is the one that also sheds some light. Like Sebastião Salgado.