‘GENESIS’; Salgado’s testimony, images and text

‘According to Roland Barthes (1977, p.16), “…the structure of the photograph is not an isolated structure; it is in communication with at least one other structure, namely the text – title, caption or article – accompanying every press photograph”.  Discuss the above, relate the theory to Sebastiao Salgado’s project ‘GENESIS’ and according to the framework of semiotic theory look separately at the images, photographer’s testimony and also at the captions/text of the particular project’.

Alto Xingu Indians in Central Brazil – (Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas Images, ‘GENESIS’, 2013.


...Conclusions extracted by the author

‘GENESIS’ book combines a straightforward collaboration of photography and language. In my opinion, Salgado succeeds in transmitting the targeted messages to his audience about protecting our planet, reversing the damage done to it and preserving it for the future; he is controlling the meaning conveyed by his project by combining: (a) beautiful images that show the exquisiteness of our planet, (b) an affectionate speech at the opening of his exhibition, (c) a strong introduction in his book and (d) detailed captions/text that provide the necessary information in order to comprehend each image and story well.Research covered by the author indicates that language has always been central to the meaning and exploitation of photographic images. The dynamics of the partnership of photography and language cannot be overwhelmed. ‘Pure’ texts are difficult to be initiated as long as they incorporate visuality the moment they are written or printed in visible form; the same applies to ‘pure’ visual experiences as the rest of our senses are still operating when we look at an image. The challenge remains for photographers, writers, researchers, editors, etc., so as to develop an-in depth understanding of how to combine and use language and images in an effective way in order to best serve their targets and goals.

Ways of Seeing

Seeing comes before words.

The child looks and recognises before it can speak.

But there is also another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.

The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe. We only see what we look at. To look is an act of choice. We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are (John Berger, ‘Ways of Seeing’).



(the Surrealist painter Magritte commented on this always-present gap between words and seeing called The Key of Dreams. The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe).