Documenting Great Photographers

Sebastiao Salgado

One of the greatest photojournalists and photo-activists of our time, Sebastio Salgado describes photography as his passion and synonymous with life itself. He has been  aligned with masters of documentary photography like Robert Capa andHenri Cartier-Bresson,

Sebastino Salgado was born in Aimors, a small town in Brazil.He grew up in a farm ,surrounded by natural rainforests; nature was always very close to his heart. In school, he studied economics. He believed in the Marxist principles and became an activist. He attained a masters degree in economics in Brazil, and later did his Phd in France. Photography eneterd his life when he was nearing 30, and quickly, it became his life. He shot pictures that touched him, be it with joy or pain. He photographed images he believed were beautiful enough to share.

Salgado believes that in the beginning stages of a shoot, understanding the subject is key. His Subject matter has always communicated powerful messages on the poverty, famine, industrialization and political oppression. His subjectmatter and his themes were always close to his heart, his own life experiences and related to his ideology.

“When I did workers, I did workers because for me, for many years, workers were the reason that I was active politically. I did studies of Marxism, and the base of Marxism is the working class.”

“When I did another body of work, Migrations, I saw that a reorganization of all production systems was going on around the planet. We have my country, Brazil, that’s gone from an agricultural country to a huge industrial country — really huge.”

“My last project is Genesis. I started an environmental project in Brazil with my wife. We become so close to nature, we had such a huge pleasure in seeing trees growing there — to see birds coming, insects coming, mammals coming, life coming all around me. And I discovered one of the most fascinating things of our planet — nature.”

Light streams across an elephant disappearing into the bush. Kafue National Park, Zambia. (2010.)

Look, ma! No hands! Salgado photographed these chinstrap penguins on icebergs between the Zavodovski and Visokoi islands in the South Sandwich Islands, near Antarctica. (2009.)

Women of the Zo’é village of Towari Ypy in Brazil. (2009.)

Sebastio Selgado’s photography style is black and white photography. Black and white photography has a certain depth that colour photography cannot reach. The starch highlight of tone and the silent drama creates a moment in every shot. His black and white photography  has been described as ‘highly formal and unflinchingly documentary’.

There is a strong aesthetic to Salgado’s photographs, despite some of his subject matter being explicitly harsh. Critiques have pointed out that this aesthetic mellows down the painful and strong message conveyed in photos talking about issues of social and political unrest. The photographer argued that this aesthetic gives the people he photographs some dignity.

Personally, my favorite series is Genesis, which portrays the grandeur of untouched nature. He describes genesis as a love letter to nature. The pictures capture the beauty and mystery and allure of candid nature. They have connected with me deeply in their essence and have taught me loads in the design aspect and their construction.

The vast tail of a Southern right whale, photographed near Argentina in 2004.

Waura Indians fish in the Puilanga Lake near their village in the Upper Xingu region of Brazil’s Mato Grosso state. (2005.)



The language of photography: Q&A with Sebastião Salgado




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