Watch: A conversation with photographer Sebastiao Salgado

A look inside the acclaimed photographer’s black and white journey from human resilience to natural conservation.

Photo: Screenshot

Clipper Media: 22 February 2024

Original: Al Jazeera English: 18 Feb 2024

Sebastiao Salgado: From stark realities to vivid conservation

A look inside the acclaimed photographer’s black and white journey from human resilience to natural conservation.

Sebastiao Salgado’s photography, initially rooted in news, evolved into a profound documentary-style work that captures human and environmental narratives.

His work spans from the raw realities of Brazil’s Mina Pelada goldmines, African famines, and the Rwandan genocide to the beauty and urgency of conservation and the lives of indigenous communities.

Salgado’s lens reveals the depth of human resilience, fragility, and the natural world, transforming his images into more than documentation but a testament to the human soul and Earth’s imperative beauty.

We explore his journey as photographer Sebastiao Salgado talks to Al Jazeera.

Sebastião Salgado (born February 8, 1944, Aimorés, Brazil) Brazilian photojournalist whose work powerfully expresses the suffering of the homeless and downtrodden.

Over the next decade Salgado photographed a wide variety of subjects, including the famine in Niger and the civil war in Mozambique. In 1979 he joined the prestigious Magnum Photos cooperative for photojournalists, and two years later he gained prominence in the United States with a riveting photograph that captured John Hinckley’s attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan

Photo: Sebastião Salgado (2016)Sebastião Salgado, 2016. © Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil (CC BY 2.0) Creative Commons Legal Code

By the mid-1980s Salgado had begun to devote himself almost entirely to long-term projects that told a story through a series of images. By this time he also established his style: impassioned photographs grounded in great formal beauty and strong compositions, which lend a sense of nobility to his often downtrodden subjects.

He won the City of Paris/Kodak Award for his first photographic book, Other Americas (1986), which recorded the everyday lives of Latin American peasants. This was followed by Sahel: Man in Distress (1986), a book on the 1984–85 famine in the Sahel region of Africa, and An Uncertain Grace (1990), which included a remarkable group of photographs of mud-covered workers at the Serra Pelada gold mine in Brazil.

In 1993 Salgado’s international reputation was confirmed when his retrospective exhibition “In Human Effort” was shown at the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art; it was the first time in the history of Japan’s national museums that the works of an individual photographer were displayed. That same year he published Workers, an epic portrait of the working class. Four years later Terra: Struggle of the Landless received tremendous critical acclaim.

The collection of black-and-white photographs taken between 1980 and 1996 documents the plight of impoverished workers in Brazil; the work includes a preface by Portuguese novelist José Saramago as well as poems by Brazilian singer-songwriter Chico Buarque. In the 1990s Salgado recorded the displacement of people in more than 35 countries, and his photographs from this period were collected in Migrations: Humanity in Transition (2000).

Many of his African photographs were gathered in Africa (2007). Genesis (2013) assembled the results of an eight-year global survey of wildlife, landscape, and human cultures uncorrupted by the onslaught of modernity and industrialization. Other publications included Kuwait: A Desert on Fire (2016), Gold (2019), and Amazônia (2021).

In 1998 Salgado and his wife, Lélia Wanick Salgado, helped to found the Instituto Terra, a project that endeavoured to restore a degraded portion of rainforest in Minas Gerais, Brazil. He was the subject of Wim Wenders’s documentary The Salt of the Earth (2015). In 2021 Salgado was awarded the prestigious Praemium Imperiale by the Japan Art Association.The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica


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