Seventy years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It happened in Paris, at the Palais de Chaillot, just in front of the Musée de l’Homme, which today, decided to celebrate the anniversary. The exhibition Déclarations showcases thirty photographs by Sebastião Salgado put in correlation with some of the Declaration’s articles.
Showcasing M. Salgado’s work in relation to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not just a nice idea, it’s also very smart. In addition to being a well-known journalistic photographer, he is an environmental activist who has been fighting to protect and restore our planet throughout his career. Lelia and Sebastião Salgado have been working together since the nighties to redevelop a part of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. They created the Instituto Terra which mission is reforestation and environmental education. They know what it means to fight for a better world.
Déclarations presents the photographs in relation to articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s simply made by displaying the photographs under quotes written on the walls. The principle is very common: putting two items in relation, in this case a visual and a text, in order to create meaning. The scenography is also very common: white walls, themed categories. But it’s well-done and it works. M. Salgado’s photographs are very meaningful but next to these quotes from the Declaration, they’re taking a new dimension: they are becoming representation of ideologies.
I am saying ideologies because the photographs are images of lives being lived, of people’s reality, showing us that the articles are not always respected, reminding us that what is said in the declaration, in some cases, is still a dream. Therefore, while being, as a group, a representation of the Human Rights’ ideology, the photographs also go in the other direction, reminding us that there is still a lot to be done to universally apply the principles of the Declaration.
Featured image: Sebastião Salgado, Rajasthan canal construction site, India, 1989.