From Sera Pelada in Brazil, to Antarctica. From his haunting project ‘Workers’, to the penguin of Deception island back in 2005, Sebastião Salgado is himself a brief history of documentary photography.
Sebastião Salgado is a photojournalist with a deep respect for nature and the socio-economic conditions that impact human beings. He has travelled in more than 120 countries. He is mainly known for his long and demanding projects like Genesis.
Sebastião Salgado was born in Aimores, a small town of 16.000 inhabitants. He trained as an economist, gaining a Master’s degree from the University of São Palo, before earning a PhD from the University of Paris. His first work was as an economist for the United Nations-affiliated International- Coffee Organization. That was a job that took him around the world. It was during these years of travelling that he started seriously taking photographs. In 1973, he quit his job to become a full-time photographer.
Having worked as an economist, it is easy to understand Salgado’s success as a photographer. From the gold digging in the Amazon, to the oil fires in Kuwait, the famine in Ethiopia, the war in Rwanda, the drought in Niger, and refugees in Bosnia, you can see a critical eye focused on economics as an inescapable force, molding our lives and our planet. “Photography is my life. It’s my way of life, and my language”, as he has said once.
For his project Genesis, he traveled around the world for 8 whole years. The result was 200 black and white photos of the arctic, desserts, rainforests and oceans. The purpose was to raise awareness about the environment and climate change. His wife, Lélia Wanick Salgado, with whom he also works close, said about the project: “Genesis is a quest for the world as it was, as it was formed, as it evolved, as it existed for thousands of years before modern life accelerated and began distancing us from the very essence of our being. It is testimony that our planet still harbors vast and remote regions where nature reigns in silent and pristine majesty”.
For his last project called Amazonia, the couple embarked on a new series of expeditions. What the photographer wanted to achieve is to highlight the diversity of the Brazilian rainforest and its inhabitants.
When asked for his project Salgado claimed, “I’m 100 per cent sure that my photographs would not do anything alone. But as part of a larger movement, I hope to make a difference. It isn’t true that the planet is a lost cause. We must work hard to preserve it.”