Since picking up a camera at 26, photojournalist Sebastião Salgado has been documenting the effects of globalisation and industrialisation in large-scale black-and-white images. He often immerses himself in long-term projects to record sites of natural beauty, animals, remote indigenous populations, international labour conditions, and the human impact on the planet.Read More
Raised on a remote farm near Aimorés in Brazil's rainforest region of Minas Gerais, Salgado has had an affinity towards nature since childhood. He is particularly sensitive to its gradual destruction and degradation as caused by human development. As Brazil began to urbanise and industrialise, his family farm went from being covered in more than 50% rainforest in the 1950s, to about 0.5% when he returned in 1994.
Salgado graduated with a master's degree in economics from the University of São Paulo in 1968. After being exiled from Brazil for political radicalism in 1969, he fled to France where he continued his studies at the University of Paris. Shortly after completing his doctorate in economics in 1971, Salgado started working as an economist for the International Coffee Organisation, frequently travelling to Africa on assignments. In 1973, Salgado left the role and took up photography full-time. He worked with Doctors Without Borders (1984–1986) on an 18-month project documenting famine in Africa. He later published the images as the photographic books Sahel: Man in Distress (1986) and Sahel: The End of the Road (2004), donating a portion of the profits back to the organisation.
Of Salgado's many long-term projects, three in particular stand out for their scope and duration: 'Workers' (1986–1992), a collection of images from large-scale industrial manual labour sites from 23 countries and the labourers from each; 'Migrations' (1993–2000), which records the displacement of people in more than 43 countries who are forced to migrate either by hunger, poverty, military conflict, natural disasters or environmental degradation; and 'Genesis' (2004–2011), a photographic series based on an eight-year expedition involving more than 30 different trips honouring pristine mountains, deserts and oceans, wild animals and isolated tribes—a project that he describes as a 'love letter to the planet'.
Formally composed and demonstrating a mastery of tonal variation, Salgado's photographs documenting themes such as the physical hardship of working in a gold mine (Legs, Serra Pelada, Brasil, 1986) and the social and geographical impacts of civil war (Returning Mozambican Refugees Start a New Life Working the Land Abandoned for 15 Years. Province of Zambeze, Mozambique, 1994), or merely work to capture the beauty of wildlife (Southern Right Whale, Navigating in the Golfo Nuevo, Valdés Peninsula, Argentina, 2005). His photographs as well as his conservation efforts (along with his wife Lélia, he has planted over 290 tree species on his farm in Aimorés and founded Instituto Terra, a non-profit organisation aimed at environmental education, conservation and reforestation) are dedicated to showing his viewers the natural beauty that can still be found on the planet, reversing the damage that has already been done to it, and preserving what is left.
Salgado is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has twice received the Infinity Award for Photojournalism by the International Center of Photography (1986 and 1988). He became an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1992, and of The Royal Photographic Society in 1993.
Salgado's work features in major international collections such as the Tate, London, and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and he has exhibited widely throughout the world, including at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (2013); Natural History Museum, London (2013); National Museum of Singapore (2014); Palazzo della Ragione, Milan (2014); and the International Center of Photography, New York (2014).
He has published numerous photographic books including Workers (1993); Terra (1997); Migrations and Portraits (2000); Africa (2007); and From My Land to the Planet (2014). In 1994, he founded Amazonas Images—an agency dedicated solely to representing his photography. His work was also the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary The Salt of the Earth (2014), directed by Wim Wenders and Salgado's son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado.
Salgado lives in Paris.
Genista Jurgens | Ocula | 2018
The Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado has traveled to well over 100 countries over the last three decades, immersing himself in far-flung communities for weeks at a time. His trademark black-and-white photograph series have documented everything from the lives of manual laborers across the globe (India's irrigation canals, Poland's...
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