Sebastiao Salgado // Where Humanism and Social Conscience meet

Sebastiao Salgado // Where Humanism and Social Conscience meet

By noisyhype team, February 22, 2020

World renowned Brazilian photographer, Sebastião Salgado, has created many in-depth and inspirational bodies of work throughout the years while documenting the various facets of life on Earth. From the disturbing, blazing oil wells in Kuwait to the disorienting visuals of Brazil’s gold mines, his finely detailed black-and-white photos reveal both awe-inspiring moments in life as well as horrifying scenes from all four corners of the world – presenting his audience with a unique vision of what our vast planet holds. 

If you’ve never heard of Sebastião Salgado – well, the world-famous photographer needs little to no introduction, to be fair. He’s probably the most illustrious photographer known in Brazil, and one might go as far as to say, perhaps, among the most well-known ones around the world today. In addition to writing more than 30 photo books and bagging various prestigious photography awards globally, he has also been the president of Europe’s Magnum agency for many years. 

But let’s put his awards and achievements aside for a moment – something Salgado rarely reflects on himself – as his epic photos of wild animals, indigenous tribesmen and remote landscapes often bring about mixed feelings of sadness, happiness and sheer awe. The Brazilian photographer’s strength lies in how gradual and involved his process is. His latest series “Genesis”, for example, has seen him devoted to the project for eight consecutive years, where he spent days living with his subjects around the world – telling a sweeping story of Earth as it balances on the edge of decline.

From humble beginnings to an epic career

Sebastião Salgado’s birthplace is in Minas Gerais, a Brazilian mining state, where he was born in 1944. Initially working as an economist in the World Bank, his photography career began in Paris in 1973, where he lives today. He has travelled to over 100 countries since then, writing many insightful books as well. He is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and an honorary member of the United States’ Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

Salgado’s photos paint a unique story, mesmerizing audiences every time 

A look at one of Salgado’s photos can be initially unsettling: there’s people swarming up ladders, hurriedly scaling the sides of what likes like a humongous man-made pit. Could this be a depiction of hell? Perhaps some of kind of spirit photo showing what life must have been like in the Aztec empire? In reality, it’s Sebastião Salgado unique vision of gold-grubbers coming out the side of an opencast mine in Brazil. 

The infamous photo captures the gold rush which created this giant hole back in the 1980s – a shot that is strangely disorienting but also timeless in many ways. Few photographs hold such power over the viewer, because it literally makes you question the very assumptions you may have about the world. Photos like these show you that something which may seem so unbelievable is, in fact, completely and utterly real. 

Salgado is one of the few photojournalists known today who loves seeking out unsettling, moving and perspective-shifting photos of life on our planet. From the mind-swarming captures of the Serra Pelada goldmine in Brazil to his most recent and epic series, Genesis, where he explores the few remaining “undamaged” environments and communities in the world – Salgado truly knows how to reveal secrets from remote places – things you believed to be long lost or crimes you never imagined could have been committed. 

Salgado is not just a brilliant photographer – he may very well be the last great and brilliant photographer in the classic and humane sense, telling profound truths through black and white shots. Pick up any of his books and every few pages, you’d come across a photo which seems like his best work ever.

In Genesis, for example, you can see the eye of a whale popping out of the sea, as if looking directly at Salgado! In another photo, you’ll see a baboon carefully balancing on a sand dune, or one where African herders move along with long-horned cattle in a surreal dust cloud. 

Sebastião Salgado has been awarded practically every major photography award you might imagine and his striking photos ring a sense of urgency – a warning that our planet is headed towards a dark fate, unless we do something about it.