“I very much like to work on long-term projects… There is time for the photographer and the people in front of the camera to understand each other. There is time to go to a place and understand what is happening there. When you spend more time on a project, you learn to understand your subjects. There comes a time when it is not you who is taking the pictures. Something special happens between the photographer and the people he is photographing. He realizes that they are giving the pictures to him.” (Sebastião Salgado)
Sebastião Salgado holds a doctorate in economics. While working in Africa for the International Coffee Organization, he discovered that his clinical work as a social scientist paled to the time he spent working with people directly.
In 1977 he began a seven-year self-initiated project photographing in small villages in South America which culminated in his first book Autres Amériques (Other Americas). During l984-l985 he worked with the French relief group Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) in the Sahel region of Africa, where severe drought had created another famine of monumental proportions. His extraordinary images, dignified and empathetic, were published in France as L’Homme en Détresse (Man in Distress) and in Spain as El Fin del Camino (The End of the Road).
In the 1990’s Sebastião’s work concentrated on his photographic project entitled, Workers. Workers served as an elegy for the passing of traditional methods of labor and production. Yet the ultimate message was one of endurance and hope. Salgado gave us a visual global epic that transcends mere image making and becomes an affirmation of the enduring spirit of working people.
On the eve of the millennium Salgado dedicated his energies to another multi-year project entitled Migrations. Migrations documented the world-altering phenomenon of mass migration. Salgado’s images collectively serve as a metaphor for the hundreds of millions of people who, in an elemental struggle of survival, have ruptured their ties with the land and tradition in a flight towards other destinies.
Sebastião Salgado’s most recent epic project is entitled Genesis. Genesis is a quest for the world as it was, as it was formed, as it evolved, as it existed for millennia before modern life accelerated and began distancing us from the very essence of being. Salgado wrote of Genesis, “I wanted to recount the dignity and beauty of life in all its forms and show how we all share the same origins…”