by Jonathan Blaustein

Do they still eat people in Papua New Guinea? Apparently so, I read. But I’m not about to hike up into some jungly mountains to find out for certain. N.F.W.

Whether they still practice cannibalism there or not, we can all agree that people have come up with some seriously weird shit along our evolutionary history. You’re obviously reading this on some sort of digital device, so you’ve progressed beyond subsistence living.

You likely own an Apple product. If not, certainly Samsung. Worst case, you’ve got an LG something-or-other, as those Koreans are making good products these days.

Whatever you think of our 21st Century, First World lifestyles, we’ve come a long way from hunting animals with spears and eating alligator meat. Right? People don’t live like that these days?

But of course they do. (I tricked you with my rhetorical genius.)

Those folks are out there. We just don’t interact with them, unless we’re on some sort of safari/favela tour. (Hey Marge, get a look at the saggy boobs on that old Abo.) Naked savages exist in fantasy worlds. They don’t feel the crunch of cracked dirt beneath their callused feet. Do they?

If you doubt me, check out Sebastião Salgado’s new coffee-table book “Genesis.” Is this the first time I’ve reviewed a coffee-table book? For sure. Is it the type of work I normally proffer on a lazy Friday? Not really.

But I always, always preach that we need to get out of our comfort zones, and experience new things. That applies to me as well. No edgy-little-art-book-number today. No sir. This here is a genu-ine Taschen publication, meant for the masses.

What can I tell you about it? Are there a lot of boobs, presented in a manner that will make you feel a smidge awkward? Yes. There are. But I’m not showing them, as I used up my August boob quota last week. (Right, Rob?)

Set that aside, and it is a fascinating collection of images, by any measure. The artist has labored and trekked across this planet, many times, just to create this group of images. We see jungles and deserts and snowpack, oh my. There are indigenous groups who live in every extreme climate you can imagine.

It’s a powerful reminder there are people who exist as if it were 10,000 years ago. Poison darts. Drinking cow blood. That kind of thing. Mr. Salgado has photographed them for us, and if you don’t find this interesting, there is something very wrong with you.

The animals are here too: penguins, hippos, giraffes, crocodiles, monkeys, jaguars, you name it. Some of them are dead, festooning the backs and outfits of the natives who ate them. That might not even be the strangest body modification in the book. I’d go with the gourds or bones stuck through the chins of the Amazonian folks within.

Whether or not you appreciate the slightly ironic tone with which I am discussing this book, I must stress that the project is a massively impressive undertaking. This book is clearly meant for all of us. Mr. Salgado wants everyone to remember the world is infinitely less virtual than we realize, and I commend him for the effort.

Bottom Line: Massive coffee-table book with broad global vision

To Purchase “Genesis” Visit Photo-Eye

Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.


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  1. Gorgeous photos, laudable intention- but all for naught? Salgado has done himself a grave disservice and done more to sabotage “the cause” he supposedly seeks to publicize and correct than anyone would have ever imagined (see below). I’m sorry to say that his sponsorship brings hypocrisy to whole new level- no matter how one rationalizes it.

      • Edward S. Curtis also had to get his funds from the industrialists for their CSR. He had money, so he went out shooting his images that turned into classics a century later…
        Not that i think it’s a good idea to let a mining company use his work as CSR.

    • I think it is even sadder that a photographer of Salgado’s caliber has to rely on funding from a mining company to get his work out there.

      • He doesn’t need their money, which is worse.

        • Are you telling us he’s one more independently wealthy photographer? There do seem to be a lot of them…


          • You know about his digs and studio in Paris? Unless he lost lots in the unfortunate economic events of 2008-2010, he certainly isn’t hurting. He may well have, but he is an economist, pretty good with managing his roll.

            • I was unaware. Thanks for the details. I studied Economics as well, so there’s hope for me yet…

  2. Now this is what i call travel photography!

  3. It is almost hard to believe that (m)any of these images are contemporary*; that, in itself, is rather remarkable.

    (*Unless they’re not in fact contemporary, but from Salgado’s archives… Do we know? Does the book provide any dates?)

    • Define contemporary. Even Salgado’s archives are contemporary. He also just spent a number of years working on this particular project.

  4. I often find your reviews clever, witty and intelligent, even when the photography in the books is repetitive and pretentious crap. In this instance the photography is miles ahead of most of what is shown in this space, or anywhere else, and the condescending tone of your review is…well…way off. You don’t need to worship an icon just because he’s an icon if you don’t like the work. If it’s not your cup of tea I think we get that. But we are so often told by critics that photography is great just because it was done by an industry or art world “star” when it’s actually not. In this case the work really is pretty damn good and the effort to produce it truly heroic.

  5. The really great edition of this book is the conference table book – size-wise comparable to the reviewed mass edition like a conference table to a coffee table.

    Wonderful paper, top quality print. After I had seen it at a Taschen store in Beverly Hills, I can’t find the mass edition pretty any more. Today I stopped by again. What’s keeping me to buy it? Maybe the price tag of $ 4000.

  6. Love this body of work. Sebastiaõ Salgado is a gracious and generous man and lacks the pretense of so many other “important” or jealous wanna be photographers. I thought of Edward Curtis during this too and found the comparison fitting.

    • I agree with this. My mother knew him before he was a fine art photographer. Generous, charming.

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