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Sebastião Salgado. Kuwait. A Desert on Fire

Hardcover, 12.5 x 11.4 in., 4.55 lb, 208 pages
US$ 60
In January and February 1991, as the United States-led coalition drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein’s troops retaliated with an inferno. As much a major document of modern history as an extraordinary photographic portfolio, Kuwait: A Desert on Fire is the first monograph on Sebastião Salgado’s astonishing 1991 series on the human, economic, and environmental catastrophe of the torched Kuwaiti oil fields.

Sebastião Salgado in a Desert Aflame

The first major publication of Salgado’s Kuwaiti oil wells series
“We must remember that in the brutality of battle another such apocalypse is always just around the corner.” —Sebastião Salgado

In January and February 1991, as the United States-led coalition drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein’s troops retaliated with an inferno. At some 700 oil wells and an unspecified number of oil-filled low-lying areas they ignited vast, raging fires, creating one of the worst environmental disasters in living memory.

As the desperate efforts to contain and extinguish the conflagration progressed, Sebastião Salgado traveled to Kuwait to witness the crisis firsthand. The conditions were excruciating. The heat was so vicious that Salgado’s smallest lens warped. A journalist and another photographer were killed when a slick ignited as they crossed it. Sticking close to the firefighters, and with characteristic sensitivity to both human and environmental impact, Salgado captured the terrifying scale of this “huge theater the size of the planet”: the ravaged landscape; the sweltering temperatures; the air choking on charred sand and soot; the blistered remains of camels; the sand still littered with cluster bombs; and the flames and smoke soaring to the skies, blocking out the sunlight, dwarfing the oil-coated firefighters.

Salgado’s epic pictures first appeared in the New York Times Magazine in June 1991 and were subsequently awarded the Oskar Barnack Award, recognizing outstanding images on the relationship between man and the environment. Kuwait: A Desert on Fire is the first monograph of this astonishing series. Like Genesis, Exodus, and The Children, it is as much a major document of modern history as an extraordinary body of photographic work.
The photographer and author

Sebastião Salgado began his career as a professional photographer in Paris in 1973 and subsequently worked with the photo agencies Sygma, Gamma, and Magnum Photos. In 1994, he and his wife Lélia Wanick Salgado created Amazonas Images, which is today their studio, and exclusively handles his work. Salgado’s photographic projects have been featured in many exhibitions as well as books, including Sahel. L’Homme en détresse (1986), Other Americas (1986), Workers (1993), Terra (1997), Migrations (2000), The Children (2000), Africa (2007), Genesis (2013), The Scent of a Dream (2015), Kuwait. A Desert on Fire (2016), and Gold (2019).

The editor

Lélia Wanick Salgado studied architecture and urban planning in Paris. Her interest in photography started in 1970. In the 1980s, she began to conceive and design the majority of Sebastião Salgado’s photography books and all of the exhibitions of his work. Since 1994, Lélia Wanick Salgado has been the director of Amazonas Images (until 2017) and their Paris studio.

Sebastião Salgado. Kuwait. A Desert on Fire
Hardcover, 12.5 x 11.4 in., 4.55 lb, 208 pages