(1944 - )
From My Land to the Planet
Salgado was born on February 8, 1944 in Aimorés, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. After a somewhat itinerant childhood, Salgado initially trained as an economist, earning a master’s degree in economics from the University of São Paulo in Brazil. He began work as an economist for the International Coffee Organization, often traveling to Africa on missions for the World Bank, when he first started seriously taking photographs. He chose to abandon a career as an economist and switched to photography in 1973, working initially on news assignments before veering more towards documentary-type work. Salgado initially worked with the photo agency Sygma and the Paris-based Gamma, but in 1979, he joined the international cooperative of photographers Magnum Photos. He left Magnum in 1994 and with his wife Lélia Wanick Salgado formed his own agency, Amazonas Images, in Paris, to represent his work. He is particularly noted for his social documentary photography of workers in less developed nations.mThey reside in Paris. He has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2001.
Salgado works on long term, self-assigned projects many of which have been published as books: The Other Americas, Sahel, Workers, Migrations, and Genesis. The latter three are mammoth collections with hundreds of images each from all around the world. His most famous pictures are of a gold mine in Brazil called Serra Pelada.
Between 2004 and 2011, Salgado worked on Genesis, aiming at the presentation of the unblemished faces of nature and humanity. It consists of a series of photographs of landscapes and wildlife, as well as of human communities that continue to live in accordance with their ancestral traditions and cultures. This body of work is conceived as a potential path to humanity’s rediscovery of itself in nature.
In September and October 2007, Salgado displayed his photographs of coffee workers from India, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Brazil at the Brazilian Embassy in London. The aim of the project was to raise public awareness of the origins of the popular drink.
Together, Lélia and Sebastião have worked since the 1990s on the restoration of a small part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. In 1998, they succeeded in turning this land into a nature reserve and created the Instituto Terra. The institute is dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation and environmental education.
Salgado and his work are the focus of the film The Salt of the Earth (2014), directed by Wim Wenders and Salgado's son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. The film won a special award at Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the best Documentary Feature at the 2015 Academy Awards.
“To look at a photograph by Sebastiao Salgado is to experience human dignity, to comprehend what it means to be a woman, a man, a child. Sebastiao undeniably nurtures a deep affection for people he photographs. Otherwise, how could we feel them to be so close, alive and trusting? How could we explain that sense of fraternity as we look at them?
From my Land to the Planet; Sebastiao Salgado; preface by Isabelle Franq
“I have always tried to show people in all their dignity. In the majority of cases, they are victims of cruelty, of events. They are photographed at a time in which they have lost their homes, seen their loved ones murdered, sometimes even their own children. For the most part, they are innocent people who do not deserve the misfortunes that have struck them. I took these photos because I thought that everyone needed to know. That is my opinion, but I don’t force anyone to look at them. I am not here to lecture or to set my conscience at rest by arousing feelings of compassion. I took these images because I had a moral, ethical obligation to do so. In such moments of suffering, you may ask, what are morals, what are ethics?”
From my Land to the Planet; Sebastiao Salgado; p. 107
“While more often than not displaced peoples are victims, their children are so to an even greater extent. They often display a great ability to adapt, to play games, to laugh. But in all these scrawny, dirty, wounded or maimed children, it was their gaze that struck me most of all.
From my Land to the Planet; Sebastiao Salgado; p. 109
Thoughts on Photography