when the oil fields burned

posted April 12, 2016

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While we’re on the subject of oil, this past Sunday, the New York Times magazine re-ran Sebastiao Salgado’s 1991 photo documentary of the burning of Saudi oil fields. And, holy crap, they are, without doubt or exaggeration, some of the most stunning photographs ever taken, highlighting both the unequivocal devastation of war and the abject threat posed by mere existence of oil fields.

In a new introduction to the photographs, Salgado writes in the Times, “It took billions of dollars and years of work to clean up the mess of Saddam Hussein’s failed scorched earth policy. Twenty-five years later, wars are raging in much of the Middle East, and oil fields have already been set aflame. We must remember that in the brutality of battle another such apocalypse is always just around the corner.”