"The image that sticks most resoundingly in my head is an understated photograph of a marine iguana’s claw, made up of thousands of tiny scales resembling interlaced black diamonds, or the cracked mud in a dry lake bed. There are a few of these beautiful little details in Genesis, and the contrast they make with the bombastic images around them is really striking, but they are too few for the effect to feel like it is intentional. Whatever your view of creation, whether intelligent design or gradual evolution, it’s these fascinating tiny details that make up the remarkable tapestry of the natural world, and it seems like a missed opportunity not to have included more of them.
Salgado’s over the top depictions of the natural world are one thing, but what I find more troubling is the representation of the indigenous tribes in his photographs. On the most straightforwardly obvious level there seems to be an implicit equation between indigenous people and the animals in Genesis, a sense that these people are more closely related to a lemur or an iguana than they are to the visitors of the exhibition. The subtext throughout seems to be that these tribes, like the enviroments they inhabit, are impotent to protect themselves, that they need us.
But rather confusingly at the same time Salgado seems to be romanticising these tribes as examples of humanity unspoilt, as something we perhaps ought to emulate. This combined with the very definite sense of ‘them’ and ‘us’ generated by the photographs brings to mind the work of eighteenth and nineteenth century ethnographic painting and photography, the awkward adulation of the ‘noble savage’ living a naive way of life in harmony with the natural world, but a way of life doomed by the very things that make it admirable."