Sebastião Salgado: GENESIS

ROM Contemporary Culture in collaboration with Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival presents North American premiere 

Iceberg between Paulet Island and the South Shetland Islands on the Weddell Sea. Antarctic Peninsula

“Genesis…is a visual tribute to a fragile planet that we all have a duty to protect.”
- Lelia Wanick Salgado, Curator


(Toronto, Ontario –February 26, 2013)  ROM Contemporary Culture (formerly the Institute for Contemporary Culture at the ROM) explores climate change as its year-long theme and hosts an exhibition by one of the most important photojournalists living today.  The North American premiere of GENESIS, by internationally renowned photographer Sebastião Salgado, opens Saturday, May 4, 2013.  Curated by Lelia Wanick Salgado and organized by Amazonas images, GENESIS is presented in partnership with Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. This is a primary exhibition of the festival and is on view until September 2, 2013.

GENESIS features 245 extraordinary images taken by Salgado during eight years of traveling to 32 different locations.  The exhibition is a photographic expedition around the planet; a journey to the landscapes, seascapes, animals and peoples that have so far escaped the long, and often destructive, reach of today’s world.  It is testimony that our planet still harbours vast and remote regions where nature reigns in silent and pristine majesty. Through these photographs, GENESIS aspires to share this beauty and begs observers to consider what is left of our planet, what is in peril, and what is left to save.

“We are living in an important moment for our planet and photographs are a way of sharing this historical moment,” says Salgado. “Ours is a powerful planet to be seen with fresh eyes. For me, GENESIS is a kind of respectful poem that we are writing about our natural home.”

“This exhibition tells stories of nature, change, loss and hopeful findings as we learn about the affects people have on the environment and what we can do to preserve our planet,” say Janet Carding, ROM Director and CEO.  “Climate change is among the most critical conversations happening today, and through the Museum’s ongoing cultural approach to this theme, we join forces with CONTACT and Sebastião Salgado, hoping that visitors who experience GENESIS will leave feeling differently than when they arrived.  We hope they leave prepared to make a difference in their own backyards.”

“Whether capturing the frozen ocean in the Arctic or the vast sand dunes in Africa, Sebastião Salgado’s majestic images reflect the great power of his creative imagination and social conscience,” says Bonnie Rubenstein, Artistic Director of Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.  “A highlight of CONTACT 2013: Field of Vision, GENESIS exposes many aspects of the world that very few of us would ever see in reality.  Contextualized by the ROM’s extensive collections, Salgado’s photographs focus on the majesty and mystery of the planet and simultaneously frame vital global issues.”

The exhibition will be presented in five broadly-defined ecosystems titled Planet South, Sanctuaries, Africa, Northern Spaces and Amazonia and Pantanal.   It will occupy two gallery spaces in the Museum – the Roloff Beny Gallery, Level 4 Crystal, and the Special Exhibitions Gallery, Level 3. 

GENESIS is part of a series of international exhibitions of the same name by Sebastião Salgado.  The ROM is one of few institutions around the world where this new body of work is presented for the first time.   Other institutions debuting the exhibition include The Natural History Museum in London, Jardim Botanico in Rio de Janeiro, and Ara Pacis Museum in Rome.  Subsequently, Genesis will tour extensively for a number of years.


To complement this exhibition and the ongoing theme of climate change, ROM Contemporary Culture will host a series of programs including panel discussions, lectures and provocations that ask visitors: How does the landscape change a culture? And how does culture change the landscape?  For more information as it becomes available visit

GENESIS is a primary exhibition of the 2013 Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Field of Vision. The internationally renowned festival takes place during the month of May at various locations throughout the Greater Toronto Area.

Artist Sebastião Salgado

Sebastião Salgado began his career as a professional photographer in 1973 in Paris.  In 1994 he and Lélia Wanick Salgado, his wife, formed Amazonas images, an organization created exclusively for his work.  He has travelled to over 100 countries for his photographic projects. Most of these works, as well as appearing in numerous print publications, have also been presented in books such as Other Americas and Sahel-l’Homme en Détresse (1986), An Uncertain Grace (1990), Workers (1993), Terra (1997), Migrations and Portraits (2000), and Africa (2007). Touring exhibitions of this work have been, and continue to be, presented throughout the world in leading museums and galleries.

Since the 1990’s, Salgado and Lélia have also worked on the restoration of a part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. They succeeded in turning the area into a nature reserve in 1998 and created the Instituto Terra, an environmental NGO dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation and education.   Salgado has been awarded numerous major photographic prizes in recognition of his accomplishments. He is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States.

Curator Lelia Wanick Salgado

Lelia Wanick Salgado studied Architecture at Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, and Urban Planning at University of Paris VIII. In her early career, she worked as a designer, draftswoman and urban planner. Her interest in photography began in the early 1970’s, with stints working at Photo Revue and Longue Vue.  In 1987, as a freelancer, Wanick Salgado began designing and curating photographic exhibitions and books, including those for Sebastião Salgado. She designed and curated numerous exhibitions, accompanying books and tours in major museums and galleries throughout the world, including Workers, Terra, Migration and The Children, for which she received the 2001 Prêmio Jabuti award in Brazil and in Africa in 2007.

In 2012, she received the e Prize from instituto e, UNESCO Brasil and Rio Town Council, as well as the  Personalidade Ambiental  from WWF, Brazil. These awards were given in recognition of her work with Instituto Terra.

ROM Contemporary Culture

Following a 20 year history of culturally diverse programming, the Institute for Contemporary Culture at the ROM (ICC at the ROM) has now become one of the Museum’s Centre’s of Discovery and is now ROM Contemporary Culture. Through innovative exhibitions and contemporary projects, the centre provides insight and inspiration to help our community make sense of the modern world and connect with one another. ROM Contemporary Culture links the past to the present through the creation of new content and experiences related to the Museum’s collections. Imaginative, experimental and eclectic in its approach, Contemporary Culture explores new ideas and new technologies to raise provocative questions about the natural world, living cultures and the creative mind.

Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

CONTACT is an annual festival of photography in Toronto, during the month of May, with over 1500 local, national and international artists exhibiting at more than 175 venues. Founded as a not-for-profit organization in 1997 and granted charitable status in 2011, the festival is devoted to celebrating, and fostering the art and profession of photography. It stimulates excitement and discussion among a diverse audience that has grown to over 1.9 million visits. CONTACT is the largest photography event in the world, and a premier cultural event in Canada. For more information:

Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival

CONTACT is supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, Celebrate Ontario, Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund, and the Ontario Arts Council.