Publisher Note

"For all the brutality of this struggle, we must always remember that another such apocalypse could happen again at any time." — Sebastião Salgado

In 1991, when the anti-Iraqi coalition led by the United States began driving Iraqi forces out of occupied Kuwait , Saddam Hussein 's troops set fire to hundreds of oil wells. These wells formed Kuwait's oil reserves. Their conflagration caused an economic, ecological and human catastrophe in the tiny Gulf state.

Sebastião Salgado traveled to Kuwait during those dramatic days to document the desperate efforts of the fire crews fighting the inferno. The scenery was apocalyptic. In the sweltering heat of the desert, almost a thousand oil wells were ablaze - and that in an area that was extensively infested with landmines. Thick clouds of black sand and soot swept over the region, carrying air pollution as far away as Kashmir and East Africa . According to estimates at the time, by mid-1991 forty million tons of crude oil had burned, releasing 250,000 tons of nitrogen oxides and 30 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Salgado's characteristically monochrome images capture the full ruthlessness of the scenes he observed:the devastated landscape, the charred carcasses of camels, the inferno of flames and clouds of smoke darkening the sky, dwarfed by the oil-soaked firefighters.

His photos from Kuwait were first published in June 1991 in the New York Times Magazine under the headline "The Eye of the Photojournalist" and were subsequently reprinted by numerous European publications such as Der Spiegel . In 1992, Salgado received the World Press Photo Foundation 's Oskar Barnack Award for this work.

25 years after the end of the Second Gulf War, this new edition of Kuwait: A Desert on Fire shows100 of Salgado's photos - they remind of an environmental catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions, but also of the courage and determination of the people who fought against it.

Artist Monograph

Sebastião Salgado


— A Desert of Fire

edited by Lélia Wanick Salgado

Release Place Cologne, Germany
Edition 1st edition
Release Date 2016
ISBN-13: 978-3-8365-6125-9
Topics Catastrophe, Iraq, Oil, Saddam Hussein
Language English, French, German
Format Hardcover with dustjacket
Dimensions 31.8 × 29.0 cm
Pages 208