Sebastiao Salgado Portrait By Sean Gallup
Sebastiao Salgado's Leica M7 Titanium
90mm Summicron f 2.0
50mm Summilux f 1.4
35mm Summicron f 2.0
90mm Summicron f 2.0
50mm Summilux f 1.4
35mm Summicron f 2.0
Listening to a photographer, in their own words, can reveal the philosophies they built over a lifetime of successful projects. Unlike a finished documentary, they speak candidly about their beliefs and the reasons they make certain decisions. Sebastiao Salgado started as an economics student. Born in Brazil, he spent his collegiate years in Paris, where he accidentally picked up his girlfriend’s Leica (above). This started his life as a photographer; otherwise he says he might have been a farmer like his father. He went on to document the working conditions of diamond miners in Brazil, ship breakers in India, and sugar cane harvests in Cuba. Combining his background in economics with photography, his pictures, which were too controversial to be published for nearly twenty years, are now part of the canon on how humans treat one another. (adammarelliphoto.com)
Refugees in the Korem camp, 1984
In 1984 Sebastião Salgado began what would be a fifteen-month project of photographing the drought-stricken Sahel region of Africa in the countries of Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, and Sudan, where approximately one million people died from extreme malnutrition and related causes. Working with the humanitarian organization Doctors without Borders, Salgado documented the enormous suffering and the great dignity of the refugees. This early work became a template for his future photographic projects about other afflicted people around the world. Since then, Salgado has again and again sought to give visual voice to those millions of human beings who, because of military conflict, poverty, famine, overpopulation, pestilence, environmental degradation, and other forms of catastrophe, teeter on the edge of survival. Beautifully produced, with thoughtful supporting narratives by Orville Schell, Fred Ritchin, and Eduardo Galeano, this first U.S. edition brings some of Salgado's earliest and most important work to an American audience for the first time. Twenty years after the photographs were taken; Sahel: The End of the Road is still painfully relevant. While traveling as an economist to Africa, he began photographing the people he encountered. Working entirely in a black-and-white format, Salgado highlights the larger meaning of what is happening to his subjects with an imagery that testifies to the fundamental dignity of all humanity while simultaneously protesting its violation by war, poverty, and other injustices. "The planet remains divided," Salgado explains. "The first world in a crisis of excess, the third world in a crisis of need." This disparity between the haves and the have-nots is the subtext of almost all of Salgado's work.
(Book Description, Sahel: The End of the Road amazon.com at adammarelliphoto.com)
Sometimes they sat down and cried
Sebastião Salgado's best shot
Canadian firefighters in Kuwait
Photograph: Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas Images/nbpictures
“I was in Kuwait in 1991. The first Gulf war had just finished, but the oil wells were still burning. To get into the country, I had to go to Saudi Arabia and hire a four-wheel drive the color of the sand - because that was the color of the US army vehicles. Then, to cross the border, someone told me to find a card in the same sort of colors as a US army ID card and wave it upside-down. Nobody stopped me, and I got through. What was incredible inside Kuwait was the sense of being in this huge theatre the size of the planet, with these oil wells burning all around. Sometimes you would go two or three days without any sunlight getting through the vast clouds of black smoke, then suddenly the sky would open. It was also quite dangerous. There were unexploded cluster bombs in the sand. A journalist and a photographer were killed when a slick of oil ignited as they crossed it. This photograph (above) comes from a series of pictures I made with a group of specialist firefighters from Canada, who were trying to deal with a blazing oil well. Putting out the fire took days and days, but that wasn't the biggest problem, even though they then had to light another smaller fire, so that a lake of oil did not accumulate around them. It was capping the well, for these guys, that was hell.
Saddam Hussein's men had used a large number of explosives, leaving the wellhead badly deformed. Because Kuwait is at the lowest point of a vast Middle Eastern oil field, the pressure was enormous, pushing the oil out with a noise like a 747's engines. Everything was completely black. You couldn't hear anyone speak. It was an incredibly dangerous place to work, because the oil was very light, much like the fuel in cars - so it catches fire very quickly, and its smell is very strong. At one point, one of the Canadians got too close, inhaled too much gas, and fell down unconscious. Meanwhile, as these guys worked away with their tools and instruments, they knew that if they touched metal against metal hard enough to create a spark, a fire would have engulfed them. As I was photographing, we did sometimes have a kind of explosion, as gas burst up through the well, but it did not ignite. The firefighters were making a lot of money, of course, but the work was so tiring and so tough that a few times I saw some of them just sit down and cry. Working in the middle of all this was extraordinary. One of my lenses got warped by the heat, so I was left with just two: a 35mm and a 60mm. This obliged me to stay very close to these guys the whole time. As a result, I was covered in oil, and felt so involved with the danger, the environment, the strange beauty and the hard work that was happening in front of me. The only way I could keep going was to carry a two-liter tank of petrol and a roll of kitchen paper inside my photo bag. I would put some petrol on the kitchen roll, clean my hands, the lens and the back of the camera, then go in again. Eventually, I felt part of the team, working with them for many days. We all became very close. I work on stories rather than individual pictures. But for me, this one picture was special: it's an incredible shot of two guys trying to cap a well. They are completely covered in oil and one of them is standing like a statue that has become black over time. It reminds me of those images you see from the First World War, in the grey light of Verdun. The moment I took it, I knew it would be good. At the same time, I was very afraid. My mouth was dry. That evening, when I got back to my hotel in Kuwait City, I found my jaw was tense and my gums were in pain from gritting my teeth all day long. But I had to be there to take these pictures. I knew I was witnessing powerful, extraordinary things that would not happen again.”
(Sebastiao Salgado - Interview by Leo Benedictus, The Guardian, Thursday 28 May 2009 at guardian.co.uk)
Sebastião Salgado was born on February 8th, 1944 in Aimorés, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. He lives in Paris. Having studied economics, Salgado began his career as a professional photographer in 1973 in Paris, working with the photo agencies Sygma, Gamma, and Magnum Photos until 1994, when he and Lélia Wanick Salgado formed Amazonas Images, an agency created exclusively for his work. He has travelled in over 100 countries for his photographic projects. Most of these, besides appearing in numerous press publications, have also been presented in books such as Other Americas (1986),Sahel: l’homme en détresse (1986), Sahel: el fin del camino (1988), Workers (1993), Terra (1997), Migrations and Portraits (2000), and Africa (2007). Touring exhibitions of this work have been, and continue to be, presented throughout the world.Sebastião Salgado has been awarded numerous major photographic prizes in recognition of his accomplishments. He is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States.
(Sebastião Salgado: The Photographer as Activist, aperture blog at csxlab.org)
Serra Pelada, State of Para, Brazil
Serra Pelada, State of Para, Brazil
Sebastião Salgado’s last epic photographic project is in its last two years from being complete. For six years he has traveled worldwide from Alaska to the tundra of Siberia, to the Southern Sudan to capture the “untouched” environments of our planet. His goal is not to ideally show the beauty of these lands, animals and people, but to rather bring hope to us, so that we can see that all is not lost in this age of pollution and global climate change. With his amazing eye and sense of belonging he has captured the beautiful wonders that our planet has to offer; You get lost in the depth of the Sahara Desert in his photograph, Sahara/Algeria with the vast sands spreading as far the eye can see and you are belittled by the mammoth size of the iceberg in his photograph, Iceberg between the Paulet Island and the Shetland Islands, Antarctica, as it towers over the ocean. He spends up to three to six months in each location to adapt to the lifestyle of the indigenous tribes, to understand the herds of the animals as if they were his own family and to be at peace and one with the vast and isolated landscapes. This last project will be different than any other epic project he has done before. He is raising awareness for a cause that has no voice until we feel the consequences from the destruction we cause. He is the voice of these untouched lands to us; so that we may experience these majestic landscapes that one-day may not exist. (chicagoartmagazine.com)