The documentary “Le Sel de la Terre” (The Salt of the Earth), directed by Wim Wenders, was released in France on October 15, 2014 (Emily, 2015). In the form of a biographer, the film shows the amazing photographic works captured by Sebastião Salgado, the Brazilian documentary photographer and press-photographer, and his interpretation of the works which recorded the human beings and nature in more than 100 countries. This Oscar documentary nominee will lead us into the legendary life of this famous photographer.

The film began with a set of photos taken by Salgado in the Serra Pelada gold mine in Brazil. Director Wim does not avoid showing great quantity of Salgado’s epic black-and-white photography directly on the big screen and freeze for a long time. Each photo is accompanied by the voices of them two to tell audience about the people, world and time behind the photos; and sometimes accompanied by a close-up of the photographer, which appears on the screen also in black and white. This kind of filming technique runs through the entire film until the end.

The film then slowly reveals Salgado’s life, family, photography projects, album themes, the change of ideas and concerns in accordance with the timeline from his birth to right now. Occasionally, it will also insert some stories the director, Salgado and his son Juliano met in cooperation photography in recent years.

Salgado said in the film that if having a lot of different styles of photographers in the same place, photos with various styles will be taken. Because coming from different places and having different experiences, will form the photographers own unique perspectives. And his study on economics let him understand the global market, industry, trade, and as well as the rules of the world’s operation, which has a great impact on his previous style of photography. He has traveled to Ecuador, Sahel, Egypt, Rwanda, etc., and has taken countless portrait photos in his projects. In these countries, he has encountered famine, oil fires, wars, refugees, and has seen countless deaths.

He records these photos in order to change people’s concept, through this emotional assimilation, and ultimately change the human condition. By shooting the deaths and the despair of people caused by war and famine, to put an end to war, to eradicate famine, and even to change the rules of the world, was his most important project at that time. As Susan (2003) pointed out early, Salgado combines images of immigrants from 39 countries to make the pain even bigger and irritating people to think they should be “more concerned”.

In 1997, after the third Rwanda filming project, Salgado was finally fed up in the face of suffering and inevitably began to question the photography projects and his role in this human catastrophe. He returned to Emory and tried to restore the barren wasteland that was destroyed by the fast-moving economy. At the same time, the photographer also began to pay attention to the ecological environment. He decided to witness the beauty of nature, the living land, animals and creatures through his lens. After experiencing trauma, Salgado re-examines the planet through a new and optimistic perspective and his hometown is once again surrounded by greenery.

“Our land forms a cycle that witnesses our lives and will continue our lives. When I passed away, the forest we planted will finally return to the way when I was born.” The slightly philosophical words said by Salgado at the end of the film, to some extent, is also his gratitude to the powerful self-recovery of the planet.

Wim Wenders, the director, through the retrospective of Salgado’s life, and the presentation of his photographs from different periods, finally shows us the photographer’s love to humanity. And to believe us that photographers can write with light, and use shadow to depict the world.