The Biography Of A Famous Photographer Sebastiao Salgado

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Sebastiao Salgado

Sebastiao Salgado is a photographer who documents culture, nature, injustice, famine, destruction, and religion. He was born February 8, 1944, in Aimorés, Brazil. In this small town he grew up with seven sisters, relying on income from cattle ranching on their farm. He went to school for economics, graduating with a masters degree from the University of São Paulo in Brazil. Before his career in photojournalism, he had always been interested in poverty and injustice. In France, he and his wife were adamant supporters of the movement against Brazil’s military government. This earned Salgado the title of a political radical, and caused him to have to move from France to London to continue his career in economics. He turned to freelance photojournalism in 1973 on a return trip to Paris, drawing inspiration from photojournalists like Walker Evans, and Lewis Hine. Once on this career path he advanced quickly, honing in on his natural ability to control the scene in front of him.

In 1977, after a great desire to come home, Salgado started working in rural Latin America documenting poverty. He created his first book with this content in 1986, calling it Other Americas. Salgado wished to show the similarities of these cultures to bring hope and harmony in man, by picturing their beliefs, losses and sufferings in such a way that everyone Dones 2could understand. Also within this year he published Sahel: Man in Distress, showing the drought stricken people of the African region of Sahel. During this project he was able to work closely with the French aid group Doctors Without Borders to capture the painful realities of famine and disease. After this he decided to continue his passion and travel the world continuing this documentation of the human condition across cultures , traveling 23 countries in just six years. He gave light to the working conditions and everyday lives of manual laborers of large-scale agricultural and industrial sites. From this he created the book and exhibition called Workers in 1992, including the famous Gold mine of Brazil photographs which show workers in horrendous conditions lined along the cliffs of the hill and crowded in the trenches below. These photos helped spread awareness of these poverty stricken desperate and neglected people, and emphasized the resiliency of man.

Much of his work depicts strength of will and enduring human spirit. A personal favorite summary of his work within this book states that, “Salgado unveils the pain, the beauty, and the brutality of the world of work on which everything rests. This is a collection of deep devotion and impressive skill.” (Miller, Aperture) . Two other noteworthy books he has produced include Genesis, a breathtaking collection of photography focusing on the beauty and importance of animals and nature , and Kuwait: A Desert on Fire, documenting the torched Kuwaiti oil fields from the conflict with Iraq. His ability to capture these powerful similarities resulted in international acclaim. He has twice been the recipient of the Infinity Award for Photojournalism from the International Center of Photography.Salgado’s subjects are often depicted as noble and proud, emphasizing the dignity of humanity. Through his work he has achieved great awareness and emotional connectivity.

Four Photos

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Asaro, Papua New Guinea, 2008: I chose this photo because I find it incredible and truly stunning; the composition is beautiful and the subject is captivating. This picture, especially from the naive perspective of someone who has never experienced culture outside of the western world, seems so unreal.

Serra Pelada Gold Mine, State of Para Brazil, 1986: This picture is very powerful and (to me) represents the entirety of his work with the gold miners of Brazil. Focusing on the man’s back with the workers in the distance shows a lack of identity and humanity (since the men there are treated as working ants, tunneling and piling upon each other). The folds in his shirt represent wrinkles and scars of the years of hardship these men have had to endure.

Sahara, Man Praying Algeria, 2009 : The magnitude of the desert is very humbling, and I think it is beautiful that Salgado was able to capture a moment of awe and religious inspiration with this man. The background is very simple, and yet there is so much to see; the shadows and twisting lines within this picture are captured very skillfully, and the footprints in the sand encourage your eye to follow the path into the unknown.

Rabida Island, The Galapagos 2004 : I think that the iguana’s claw looks like a child’s hand, drawing a parallel from humanity and nature. I also like the texture seen in the roughness of the rock and with the scales of the Iguana.


  1. Avenali. “Sebastião Salgado, Photographer.” The Limits of Thinking in Decolonial Strategies | Townsend Center for the Humanities, 11 Feb. 2002,
  2. Editors. “Sebastião Salgado.”, A&E Networks Television, 2 Apr. 2014,ão-salgado-40046.
  3. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Sebastião Salgado.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 29 Mar. 2018,
  4. Byrne, Wendy. “Workers.”,“Sebastiao Salgado – Biography.” UNICEF,
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