Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado Júnior, born on February 8, 1944, in the small town of Aimorés, Minas Gerais, Brazil, is a renowned Brazilian-French social documentary photographer and photojournalist. His impactful work has taken him to over 120 countries, capturing the essence of humanity and the environment through his lens.
Early Life And Education
Salgado’s journey began with a somewhat itinerant childhood, leading to his training as an economist. He earned a BA degree from UFES, a master’s degree from the University of São Paulo in Brazil, and a PhD from the University of Paris. His initial career involved working as an economist for the International Coffee Organization, frequently traveling to Africa on missions for the World Bank.
Transition to Photography
It was during Salgado’s travels to Africa that he discovered his passion for photography. In 1973, he made a significant career shift, abandoning economics to pursue photography. Initially associated with Sygma and Gamma, he later joined the prestigious Magnum Photos in 1979. Salgado’s distinctive style emerged, focusing on social documentary photography, particularly highlighting the lives of workers in less developed nations.
Salgado’s photographic journey is marked by extensive projects published as influential books. “The Other Americas,” “Sahel,” “Workers,” “Migrations,” and “Genesis” are monumental collections, each showcasing hundreds of images from various corners of the world. His work has a profound focus on capturing the unblemished faces of nature, humanity, and communities living in accordance with ancestral traditions.
Beyond his photographic endeavors, Salgado, along with his wife Lélia Wanick Salgado, has been actively involved in environmental restoration. Since the 1990s, they have worked on reclaiming a part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. In 1998, their efforts resulted in the creation of the Instituto Terra, a nature reserve spanning 17,000 acres, dedicated to reforestation, conservation, and environmental education.
Awards and Recognition
Sebastião Salgado’s contributions to photography have been recognized with numerous awards and honors. Notable among them are the W. Eugene Smith Grant, Oskar Barnack Award, Hasselblad Award, and the Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal. His work has not only earned him accolades but also the title of a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
The impact of Salgado’s work extends to the cinematic realm. The documentary “The Salt of the Earth” (2014), directed by Wim Wenders and Salgado’s son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, delves into his life and photographic journey, offering a deeper understanding of the man behind the lens.