Benedikt Taschen is the founder and managing director of TASCHEN. He started his professional life at age 18 in a 25-square-meter store in his native Cologne, Germany, which he named TASCHEN COMICS. By the end of the 1980s, TASCHEN titles were available in over a dozen languages at prices that finally made art books affordable for students and collectors alike—still the publishing house’s credo to this day. Other SUMO titles he has published include: Helmut Newton, Salgado’s Genesis, David Hockney, The Greatest of All Time, The Rolling Stones and Annie Leibovitz. He lives in Los Angeles and Berlin.
Through its ecological partnership with Lélia Wanick Salgado, Sebastião Salgado and Instituto Terra, TASCHEN is reaching carbon neutral status. Reflecting a lifelong devotion to the earth and its people, Instituto Terra is the culmination of an activism that pervades the Salgados’ work. TASCHEN is honored to have been a part of the organization’s efforts for many years, and to have published crucial photographic collections with the Salgados’ including Exodus, Genesis, and the forthcoming book Amazônia, an urgent celebration of the rainforest’s indigenous cultures as well as its endangered beauty.
The Instituto Terra organization was founded in 1998 at Aimorés in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, on land belonging to the Salgado family. Once a cattle ranch carved out of the Atlantic Forest, the property had become arid and infertile, with dried-up rivers and little more than shrubbery for vegetation. For over 20 years, Lélia and Sebastião Salgado have reforested the valley with the species that once flourished there. Since then, a miraculous transformation has taken place.
Through a scientific program of planting and raising saplings, the slopes and lowland of the area are now covered with two million new trees of more than 300 different species, among them the Pau-Brasil tree (which gave Brazil its name), the Jacarandá Caviuna, and the Jatobá. This reforestation has resulted in the rebirth of a tropical microclimate, bringing increased rainfall and replenishing parched streams and creeks with water. Over 170 species of birds and scores of animals – some endangered and many not seen in decades – have moved back to the region.
Trees play a crucial role in balancing global levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen. While humans breathe in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, trees work to do the opposite: they release life-giving oxygen into the environment and help absorb the excess carbon dioxide we produce. Because they do this mostly while they are growing, the impact of the new forest at Aimorés is even more significant.