Sebastião Salgado, witness and protagonist of his time
On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Musée de l’Homme in Paris is hosting an exhibition of the work of French-Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado entitled Déclarations as part of the En droits ! season celebrating human rights. Focusing on a photographer who is a humanist, globetrotter and committed environmentalist.
The 30 large-format black and white images exhibited at the Musée de l’Homme illustrate certain articles of the Declaration: the right to asylum, freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the right to work to name but a few. These striking images, taken on the five continents, remind us of the need to continue defending human rights and they highlight the universal scope of a text that is all too often disregarded. Above and beyond being an exhibition, this is the manifesto of a profoundly humanist photojournalist.
Witness through image
Salgado was born in Aimorés, Brazil in 1944 and went on to study economics in São Paulo. As an activist with the communist youth wing, he had to flee Brazil’s dictatorship and settled in Paris in 1969, where he enrolled on a PhD in agricultural economics. In 1971, he embarked on a career as an economist with the International Coffee Organization (ICO) based in London. He was an avid, self-taught photographer and decided in 1973 to turn his passion into his profession. “I used to take my camera along for my investigations and I came to the realisation that my pictures gave me ten times more pleasure than my economic reports. (…). In fact, I continued to do the same thing: report on reality,” he explained. For 20 years, he worked for the biggest photo agencies – Sygma, Gamma and Magnum. In 1994, along with his wife Lélia, he set up his own agency in Paris, Amazonas Images.
“I don’t want anyone to appreciate the light or the palette of tones. I want my pictures to inform, to provoke discussion.”
A photographer of humans
With an inclination for long-term projects Sebastião Salgado tirelessly travels around the world to bear witness to the daily lives of communities beset by war (in Angola and Spanish Sahara), drought, social injustice (report on Cité des 4000 in the Paris suburbs) or immigration. From 1977 to 1984 he travelled throughout Latin America to the most remote mountain villages. The result was a book, Other Americas (1986), on peasant and Indian cultures and Indian cultural resistance. In 1984 and 1985 with Médecins sans frontières (Doctors without Borders) he photographed the harsh living conditions in refugee camps (Sahel. L’Homme en détresse (Humans in Distress). 1986). Then, the former economist took an interest in the global production system. From 1986 to 1992, he travelled across twenty-six countries to report on the evolution of manual work. This series, exhibited worldwide, includes some of his most famous pictures, collectively published in La Main de l’homme (1993) and in English under the title Workers (2005).
Committed to protecting the planet
His latest work, Genesis – comprising about sixty photos and a book – published in 2013 – is a plea for the planet, full of images of tropical forests, deserts, polar regions and imposing landscapes that outwardly appear to be unchanging but are today endangered…
Indeed, ecology is the other cause Salgado champions. In 1994, on his return to Brazil after several years away, he was deeply disturbed by the extent of the deforestation disfiguring his native country. Along with his wife, Salgado founded an environmental NGO, Instituto Terra, with a mission to replant 700 hectares of Atlantic forest around the family property in the Minas Gerais region. In 20 years, over 2 million trees have been replanted and 600 hectares revegetated. Instituto Terra also conducts environmental awareness and education programs.
Sebastião Salgado embodies the values of social responsibility, humanism, activism and environmentalism that ATR likes to share with its community, notably through Into Life. That is why ATR chose Musée de l’Homme as the venue to host its customers and partners during the International Paris Air Show.
Déclarations by Sebastião Salgado until 30/06/2019
Musée de l’Homme, Paris: museedelhomme.fr
For further information:
Salgado’s Official Website: amazonasimages.com/
The Salt of the Earth. A documentary about the photographer by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado : see the trailer here
Photo credit image header : ©Kevin Scanlon