Lifestyle

Interview: Photographer Sebastião Salgado

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Spending most of his time clicking epic photographs of gold mines, oil fields, and genocide, Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado has won several awards for his compassionate black and white images.
To showcase his most outstanding work, Hafez Gallery is hosting his solo exhibition that will run throughout the month of May.
Born on Feb. 8, 1944, in Aimorés in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, Salgado seeks out the most amazing and heartrending images of lifecycle on Earth. His photographs encapsulate and touch humanity. Instead of recording human victories, he took refuge in its flaws. He used all of his strength and energy to penetrate the worst parts of human life today and transform them into beautiful works of art that adorn museum walls and art connoisseurs’ walls.

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“The boundless curiosity has not only helped me to bring diversity to my work, but also extended to the different cultures, people and places I have been to or explored throughout my photography career,” he said.
This is the first time Salgado’s work has been exhibited in Saudi Arabia. Commenting on his visit, he said, “I am so excited that my work is exhibited for the first time in the Kingdom and I am honored that it is being admired by a large number of people. I hope to leave an impact of my vision and experience.”
Most of Salgado’s work will show something incredible and unbelievable but yet absolutely genuine. All the images shot are bizarrely timeless and disorienting. Pictures like gold grubbers assembled in an opencast mine prove his piercing gaze and high sensitivity that allowed him to uncover beauty in the middle of ugliness. He discovered wisdom through pain, recording light where there are shadows.
Salgado studied economics until he got his master’s degree in 1967. He married Lélia Wanick in the same year and they both moved to Paris so that he can pursue his PhD in economics. In 1971, he was sent to Rwanda to study the agriculture production abilities of the country’s economy while working as an economist in the International Coffee Organization.

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Describing his journey as a photographer, he said, “I borrowed my wife’s camera and used it during my trip to Africa.” He took his first picture in 1970. After coming back home, he discovered that the pictures he took described his vision of Africa much better than the written reports he did. This was the turning point of his life. That is when he decided to change careers, from economy to press photography. He started out as a freelance photographer for many photography agencies and got hired in the best one, Magnum Agency, working there for 15 years.
In 1994, he founded along with his wife Amazonas Images, a press agency dedicated to his works. Through it, he launched the beautiful series of artistic works that have had an impact on the world.
Moreover, Lélia and Salgado together have worked since the 1990’s on the restoration of a small part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. In 1998 they succeeded in turning this land into a nature reserve and created the Instituto Terra. The Institution is dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation and environmental education. However, it was able to plant more than two million trees, which completely revived the circle of life, especially in Minas Gerais.

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Salgado says that he thinks he has found a solution to the climate change that the planet is suffering from through this project. He said, “We need to listen to the words of the people on the land. Nature is the earth and it is other beings and if we don’t have some kind of a spiritual return to our planet, I fear that we will be compromised.”
In addition to this, he highlighted the famine and emigration in Africa and poverty in South America, in one of the most important social projects ever under the title ‘Workers’ (1993). “In this project the main aim was to shed light on the way a man used to work with his hands before transitioning to the mechanized world,” he said.
Besides, he visited more than 100 countries in order to document the world of gold mining in Brazil, steel workers and solid workers in India and the petrol pipelines firefighters of Kuwait.
Working in black and white, his efforts depict great photography in the classic and humane tradition while expressing deep facts of life. He is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States, Comendador da Ordem de Rio Branco in Brazil, and Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France.
Likewise, under a project named ‘Genesis’ he presents the unblemished faces of nature and humanity.
It consists of a series of photographs of landscapes and wildlife, as well as of human communities that continue to live in accordance with their ancestral traditions and cultures. This body of work is conceived as a potential path to humanity’s rediscovery of itself in nature.
By turning his lens on the planet, he is able to click incredible pictures such as of giant ice sculptures carved by sea water, penguins leaping into the ocean from an iceberg and a man praying in the middle of the desert.
The book ‘Genesis’ published by Taschen in six languages, came out in spring 2013. A touring exhibition is currently presented in several countries.
Furthermore, Salgado’s documentary named ‘The Salt of the Earth’ was an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature in 2015 and was also nominated in Cannes Film Festival in 2014.
Walking by the gallery, the audience is pulled up by every shot that seems like one of the best photographs ever taken.

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