by Gerald Boerner


“I was born in a tropical ecosystem. I’m not used to these plants.”
— Sebastião Salgado

“We are completing a sort of miracle in our region, so many things are coming back.”
— Sebastião Salgado

“…one of the world’s most celebrated documentary photographers and his…images…have cult status among photography lovers”
— The Hammer Museum Lectures

“Darwin spent 37 to 40 days there… I got to spend about three months there [Galápagos Islands], which was fabulous.”
— Jori Finkel, “Back to Nature, in Pictures and Action,” The New York Times, May 27, 2009

“It was the paradise where I was born but when we arrived, we found that what had been 60 percent rainforest is now just 0.3 percent rainforest.”
— Sebastião Salgado

“Sebastião Salgado discovered photography while working as an economist for the World Bank. He is now one of the world’s greatest photographers.”
—, “Art and Design Web”

“I came here for special things, but my head is there, my body is there… I might be sleeping in a hotel room in Los Angeles, but in my mind I am always editing pictures.”
— Jori Finkel, “Back to Nature, in Pictures and Action,” The New York Times, May 27, 2009

“Famous for putting a human face on economic and political oppression in developing countries, Mr. Salgado is photographing the most pristine vestiges of nature he can find: pockets of the planet unspoiled by modern development.”
— Jori Finkel, “Back to Nature, in Pictures and Action,” The New York Times, May 27, 2009

“I’m 100 percent sure that alone my photographs would not do anything. But as part of a larger movement, I hope to make a difference,” he said. “It isn’t true that the planet is lost. We must work hard to preserve it.”
— Jori Finkel, “Back to Nature, in Pictures and Action,” The New York Times, May 27, 2009


Sebastião Salgado (born: 1944)

Salgado_in Exhibit_600 Sebastião Salgado is a Brazilian social documentary photographer and photojournalist. It’s not just that this celebrated Brazilian photojournalist has been sniffling since he arrived in the city, explaining: “I was born in a tropical ecosystem. I’m not used to these plants.” It’s also that he peppers his description of the city with words like strange and crazy, noting that he was mesmerized by the sight of the endless stream of automobile traffic as his plane made its descent.

Sebastiao salgado 2006_719px 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 travelled often to Africa on missions affiliated with the World Bank. It was then that he first began taking his first photographs. On his return to London these images began to preoccupy him, and he abandoned his career as an economist. At the beginning of 1973 he and his wife returned to Paris so that he could begin his life as a photographer.

salgado_Genesis 4 Salgado initially worked with the Paris based agency Gamma, but in 1979 he joined the international cooperative of photographers Magnum Photos. He left Magnum in 1994 and 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. Longtime gallery director Hal Gould considers Salgado to be the most important photographer of the early century, and gave him his first show in the United States.



Salgado slideshow on the
coffee workers in his
native country, Brazil.
[Click on image to start.]

Salgado works on long term, self-assigned projects many of which have been published as books: The Other Americas, Sahel, Workers, and Migrations. The latter two 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. He is presently working on a project called Genesis, photographing the landscape, flora and fauna of places on earth that have not been taken over by man.

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.

His Causes

salgado_Genesis 1 From 1984 to the beginning of 1986 he worked, along with the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, on an 18-month project documenting the African famine. He published two books, Sahel, lÀhomme en d’eactutétresse (Sahel: Man in Distress) in France and Sahel el fin del camino (Sahel the End of the Road) in Spain. The two books and a number of photographic exhibitions were created specifically to support the efforts of Doctors Without Borders.

sebastiao_salgado_Water Workers From 1986-92 Sebastião travelled to 23 countries to create a series of photographs on the end of the age of large-scale industrial manual labour. In 1993 he published the book Workers: an archeology of the industrial era in eight countries. More than 100,000 copies of the book were printed, and a large exhibition has been circulating throughout the world to more than 60 museums so far.

Salgado_kurdish girl_b In 1993 Sebastião began another series of photographs, inspired by Workers, which would be called Migrations. This project would bring him to 43 countries, on every continent, to document the peoples who abandoned the countryside for the cities. As part of the project, for example, he photographed nine megalopolises which had experienced enormous increases in population during the last two decades due to various forms of migration. The books, Migrations, and Portraits of Children of the Migration, were also published in 8 countries with more than 220,000 copies in print. Eight sets of a large exhibition were simultaneously produced to be shown throughout the world. As well, more than 3,000 sets of 60 posters were created to be shown in union halls, churches, cultural centres, schools, etc. An educational program also was produced to accompany the exhibition in several countries. More than 3 million people are estimated to have seen this work.

During this time other books have also been published:

  • An Uncertain Grace (1992);
  • Workers: An Archeology of the Industrial Age (1993);
  • Terra (1997);
  • Migrations (2000);
  • Children: Refugees and Migrants (2000);
  • Sahel: The End of the Road (2004
  • Africa (2007);
  • Genesis (2009).

salgado_Genesis 6 Almost all of these books, as well as most of the exhibitions, were conceived and created by Lélia Deluiz Wanick. Lélia and Sebastião also formed Amazonas Images in 1994, the year when Sebastião left Magnum Photos. Amazonas Images is a press agency which may be the smallest photographic agency in the world, representing only one photographer. Lélia and Sebastião also have worked together since 1991 on the restoration of a small part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil to its natural state. In 1998 they succeeded in making this land a nature preserve and created Instituto Terra, which includes an educational centre for the environment. More than 500,000 trees have been planted, and the project is at the heart of a much larger community effort focusing on sustainable development in the Rio Doce valley.

salgado_Genesis 7 Sebastião Salgado is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in the USA. He has received numerous prizes, including several Honorary Doctorates and many other accolades for his photographic work.

Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Sebastião Salgado that can be found at…

Also, an article on Sebastião Salgado found in… 
Peter Stepan. (2008) 50 Photographers You Should Know. New York: Prestel.

Sebastião Salgado: TimesOnline… Taking the espresso train…

Sebastião Salgado: Slideshow: Coffee Workers…

Sebastião Salgado:  Nature, Nurtured from the “Genesis” Exhibit (The New York Times)…

Sebastião Salgado:  Nature, Nurtured from the “Genesis” Exhibit Slideshow…