Two sacred monsters for a fascinating and threatened forest: Sebastião Salgado’s photos, set to sound by Jean-Michel Jarre, celebrate the Amazon and sound the alarm about its future in a joint exhibition at the Philharmonie de Paris.
The famous Brazilian photographer is several decades younger (he is 77), his shoulders are straighter and his voice carries far when he denounces the management of the Amazon by Jair Bolsonaro, President of Brazil.
“The government of Mr. Bolsonaro tells lie after lie,” Sebastião Salgado told AFP just before his joint press conference with Jean-Michel Jarre. “He gives the impression that he is solving the problems, but he is telling lies to continue destroying. The destruction of the Amazon is going at an incredible speed.
Jair Bolsonaro pledged in late April to eliminate illegal deforestation in Brazil by 2030. But “after he made this declaration at the big meetings (on climate) organised by US President Joe Biden, this is the month in which the greatest destruction of the Amazon forest took place”, enrages Sebastião Salgado, in an excellent French.
Between August 2019 and July 2020, deforestation in the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, increased by 9.5% compared to the previous 12 months, with a deforested area equivalent to that of Jamaica, and forest fires have also reached extremely worrying levels.
“My great hope is that together we can stop the destruction of the Amazon biome (ecosystem), that we can protect it, that we can protect its Indian communities. We need them, not just to keep them there, we need them for the whole planet”, continues the photographer, wearing a Gavroche-style cap.
His 200 incomparable black and white photos magnify the Amazon, its mountains, its rivers and its inhabitants. These pictures are the result of seven years spent travelling in the Amazon, a journey that allowed this world-famous eye to meet a dozen Indian communities.
– Global harmony” –
The other asset of the “Amazônia” exhibition – which is on show in Paris (until 31 October) before stops in Brazil (São Paulo, Rio), Rome and London – is its soundtrack, an original creation by Jean-Michel Jarre.
It was an interesting challenge because it was unusual,” the international electro star told AFP before his press conference with the photographer. In fact, there were a lot of pitfalls in relation to a work like this, firstly not falling into the music of atmosphere, not falling into world music or into something too ethnic”.
Jean-Michel Jarre succeeds in this challenge by directing the sound elements — storms, rain, murmurs, songs, wind, the beating of wings, the crackling of a fire, etc. — in the manner of a director.
“All the sounds in a forest are totally independent sounds, i.e. the singing bird is totally unaware of the people passing between the trees, the rain falling on the stone and so on. And yet, to the human ear, they form a global harmony,” he continues. The author of “Oxygène” also draws up an inventory of this lung of the planet (the album is available on Sony).
Jean-Michel Jarre thus restores the majesty of the Amazon, but his music is also permeated by a dull anguish. Sebastião Salgado’s cry of alarm has “unconsciously” influenced the composer’s work, as he admits: “When I finished, I realised that in the end we had a rather dark soundtrack, even if there are moments of clarity.