Genoa, Italy, Sebastião Salgado's new photography exhibition shows us the importance of water

From March 22 to July 14, Palazzo Ducale in Genoa is hosting 'Aqua Mater,' Sebastião Salgado's exhibition that through 42 photographs reminds us of the extreme importance of water by opening reflections on critical issues such as the environment, society, and the future of the planet.

Brazil, Algeria, Antarctica, Russia, Mali, Alaska, India, Namibia, Italy... There are 42 photographs by renowned master Sebastião Salgado, printed in large format, that make up AQUA MATER, the exhibition that, after its presentation in Paris in a bamboo pavilion under the Grande Arche in the Defense district, will be displayed at the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa, opening to the public from March 22, 2024, on the occasion of World Water Day promoted byUNESCO, until July 14, 2024.

AQUA MATER is produced by the Fondazione Palazzo Ducale in collaboration with Rjma Progetti culturali, Creation and SM-Art. The exhibition is curated by Lélia Wanick Salgado, the photographer’s work and life companion, and the exhibition itinerary is accompanied by a sound track composed for the exhibition by musician François Bernard Mâche of theAcadémie des Beaux Arts. An audio guide in Italian and English with Sebastião Salgado’s personal story and his recollections of the photos presented in the exhibition will be available to all visitors. Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane is the technical sponsor of the exhibition, and Radio Monte Carlo is the official radio station.

“This exhibition,” says the president of the Palazzo Ducale Fondazione per la Cultura, Beppe Costa, “offers not only an extraordinary collection of photographic works, but also the opportunity for an informed reflection on critical issues such as water, the environment and society, in a city whose history and future are particularly linked to the sea. Salgado takes us on an exciting journey through the many facets of water, revealing its life force, its fragility and its extraordinary ability to shape our world: from majestic waterfalls to the depths of the oceans, from communities dependent on increasingly scarce and precious water resources to the devastation caused by pollution and climate change.”

“The exhibition of Sebastião Salgado, hosted in the Sottoporticato,” emphasizes Palazzo Ducale Fondazione per la Cultura director Ilaria Bonacossa, “is part of a now established attention reserved by the Fondazione for photography and for the most important interpreters of this art. In this case, there is an additional element that makes this exhibition particularly stimulating: the grafting of ’phonographs’ by François-Bernard Mâche desired by Lélia Wanick Salgado, curator of the exhibition. The music creates through the interaction between sound and image a multisensory immersion that enriches and deepens the overall emotional impact of the exhibition by adding an emotional sensory element that opens up a symbolic and poetic dimension as well as an ecological and social one.”

“It is a great honor to celebrate today Sebastiao Salgado’s extraordinary exhibition Aqua Mater curated by Lélia Wanick Salgado, which arrives for the first time in Italy and in our wonderful city, after having been presented in Paris. This exhibition,” stresses the coordinator of Cultural Policies of Regione Liguria, Jessica Nicolini, “is much more than an exhibition; it is an emotional journey through the pristine beauty of nature and the depths of the human soul. Sebastiao Salgado, with his masterful lens, invites us to immerse ourselves in the waters of our planet, to contemplate the majesty of the oceans, rivers, lakes and glaciers that shape the world and are endangered by pollution, climate warming. From his images we perceive the fragility of these precious and fragile ecosystems and the devastating impact of human activities that prompt us to reflect on our relationship with the environment and our responsibilities. His is a powerful call to action to protect and preserve our water resources and ensure a sustainable future for the younger generations. Moreover, it is significant that this exhibition was curated by Salgado’s companion Lélia Wanick hosted by Genoa and Palazzo Ducale who was able to capture and present to the world not only the beauty of the visual art, but the profound and universal message of his photographs. Genoa and Liguria with its rich maritime history and location on the sea are the ideal places to host this extraordinary exhibition that we are sure will inspire every visitor.”

“Water is life, a concept that has been taken for granted for too long and that today we have a duty to bring to the attention of the new generations,” argues the Councillor for Territorial Marketing of the City of Genoa, Francesca Corso. Water resources are not inexhaustible, and in this awareness we must work to spread the message that the protection of our ecosystem and life in general passes through water, in all its forms. The shots of master Salgado, who has been involved in the protection of the Amazon rainforest for decades, offer us important food for thought, which will also be explored in workshops and events dedicated to families and children. Genoa has built its centuries-long history in a close and direct relationship with the sea, a source of wealth and therefore of life: even in the statute of the City of Genoa it is well specified how water is “heritage of humanity and of all living species.” Recognizing the centrality of water resources in our ecosystem means giving back to the next generations an essential heritage for our communities. Raising awareness of this issue through art, then, can awaken consciousness with a universal language of sure impact."

The exhibition itinerary features an extensive set of texts dedicated to the theme of water: the Earth Institute founded by the Salgados for the reforestation of the Atlantic Forest, the Water Manifesto for the 21st Century, World Water Day 2024, a UNESCO report, a text signed by Lélia and Sebastião Salgado, and others.

The exhibition project stems from the author’s reflection on the state of the Planet and in particular of Water, the element that makes it unique in the universe, a theme at the center of an epochal change that Fondazione Palazzo Ducale welcomes with a great sense of responsibility. Global warming and rising ocean levels, desertification and flooding will have devastating consequences for the environment and for millions of people who will be forced to change their lives. Harmonious cohabitation with the aquatic element and its protection are increasingly essential to our survival and the preservation of biodiversity around the world.

With these assumptions, Sebastião Salgado has selected a number of significant images to represent the need, beauty, strength and mysteries of water, a fundamental and precious element of the Earth. The photographs - printed in black and white on large formats - will be set up in an evocative exhibition itinerary. The photos show the relationship between nature and human life, highlighting the link between the environmental crisis and social inequalities.

In addition to being a major artistic event, the exhibition is an extraordinary opportunity to delve into the most topical environmental issues, to which educational proposals for schools and families will be dedicated, as well as a series of international meetings on the themes ofWater and theAnthropocene curated by Telmo Pievani and Andrea Rinaldo, winner of the Stockholm Water Prize 2023, considered “the Nobel Prize of water.”


Myth tales and poetic imagery often associate water with the human life cycle. Water is the most precious liquid on Earth, indispensable for our existence. The idea for this exhibition arose from a reflection on the state of our planet. Global warming has become a threat to humanity and nature. Melting glaciers and thermal expansion of sea waters due to high temperatures inexorably cause ocean levels to rise, with devastating consequences for coastal populations and the environment.

Harmonious cohabitation with the water element and its protection are increasingly necessary for our survival and to preserve biodiversity around the world. Forests produce the phenomenon of evaporation, which forms true “aerial rivers” that carry fresh water to different latitudes, reaffirming the urgency of their protection. Oceans, rivers, streams, lakes, waterfalls, and rain are a very important part of the planet. Water is vital to the human body, to the plants we eat, to biomes, and to animal species. Attempting to represent with images the need, beauty, strength and mystery of water is a difficult undertaking, with the risk of falling into cliché.

In this exhibition, water appears in all its forms, purity and intensity, abundance and scarcity, is captured in its solitude or in its various interactions with humans, fauna and flora, in a photographic selection of its poetry and indispensable character.

As French thinker Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962) wrote in his work Water and Dreams, “A drop of powerful water is enough to create a world and to dissolve night. To dream of potency a drop imagined in depth is sufficient. Water thus empowered is a germ that gives life inexhaustible momentum.”

For all information, you can visit the official website of the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa.

Genoa, Italy, Sebastião Salgado's new photography exhibition shows us the importance of water
Genoa, Italy, Sebastião Salgado's new photography exhibition shows us the importance of water

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