“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, Salgado braved the intense danger, stench, pollution, and scorching temperatures
to capture the ravaged landscape; the air choking on charred sand and soot; the blistered remains of camels; the sand littered with cluster bombs; the flames and smoke soaring to the skies, blocking out the sunlight, dwarfing the oil-soaked firefighters.
The epic monochrome pictures first appeared in The New York Times Magazine
in June 1991 and were subsequently hailed as one of the photographer’s most captivating—and courageous—bodies of work
. Adding to Salgado’s roster of international accolades, the series was awarded the Oskar Barnack Award,
recognizing outstanding photography on the relationship between man and the environment.
This signed and limited Art Edition Kuwait: A Desert on Fire
is the first major monograph
of this extraordinary collection. It presents more than 80 images
, interlaid with transparency paper, and printed with cutting-edge High Definition Skia Photography technology
. This new era of photographic printing allows, for the first time, all visible elements captured by the camera to transfer to print, achieving a visible range close to the very limits of what the human eye can perceive and a new level of three-dimensionality on the page.
The accompanying signed print Kuwait, 1991
shows a lone firefighter doused in water and approaching a billowing fire. In its vast elemental drama, the image encapsulates the nightmarish theater of the oil field disaster as a manmade catastrophe dwarfing humans into beleaguered agents in an epic battle between fire, air, and water
. Together, this astonishing image and the pristine edition of Salgado’s Kuwait portfolio are a stark statement on the catastrophes of conflict and a vivid encounter with one of Salgado’s most important historical documents.
Art Edition (No. 1–100), with the gelatin silver print Kuwait, 1991, each numbered and signed by Sebastião Salgado.
- First major publication of Salgado’s Kuwaiti oil wells series.
- Grand-scale, museum-quality reproduction with High Definition Skia Photography, allowing all visible components captured by the camera to be transferred to print.
- More than 80 images, interlaid with transparency paper.
- Signed by the photographer, with accompanying signed print Kuwait, 1991.
Also available as a signed Collector's Edition (No. 101–1,100).