A Brazilian photojournalist and documentary photographer on social issues, Sebastião Salgado was born in 1944 in Minas Gerais. He initially did Master in Economics in Brazil from University of São Paulo. For the International Coffee Organization, he worked as an economist frequently visiting Africa on World Bank missions. This is when he became fascinated with photography. In 1973, he abandoned economics and chose photography as his career. At first, he worked for news projects before swerving to making documentaries. Salgado worked with Sygma, a photographing agency as well as with Gamma. Then in 1979, he started working with Magnum Photos, an international organization of photographers. However, in 1994 he quit from magnum and along with Lélia Wanick (his wife), he opened an agency on his own by the name of Amazonas Images. The family resides in Paris.
Sebastião Salgado has traveled more than hundred countries for his photographic assignments. Most of these have appeared in the press, in publications as well as in books including Africa, 2007; Migrations and Portraits, 2000; Terra, 1997; Workers, 1993; Sahel: el fin del camino, 1988; Sahel: l’homme en détresse, and Other Americas, 1986. Exhibition of his pieces have been continually displayed around the world. Hal Gould, director or Longtime Gallery considers Salgado as 21st century’s most significant photographer.
Since the 1990s, Salgado and his wife have strived to restore a part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil and in 1998, they finally converted the small piece of land into Instituto Terra – a Private Natural Heritage Reserve.
In appreciation of his contributions and accomplishments to photography, Salgado has received countless awards and prizes. In the United States, at the Academy of Arts and Science, he is an honorary affiliate. In addition, he is the ambassador of UNICEF Goodwill. In 1993, due to his outstanding performance in photography, he received an Honorary Fellowship and the Centenary Medal from the Royal Photographic Society.
Salgado worked on the immaculate faces of humanity and nature in a project called Genesis, from 2004 until 2011. It includes a series of images of communities of humans who till date follow their traditions and there are pictures of wildlife and landscapes.
In 2007, Salgado exhibited his photos from India, Ethopia, Brazil and Gautemala, of coffee workers. His intention was to spread awareness among people about the origin of this worldwide well-liked drink.
His work is mostly comprised of journalistic photography, large-scale projects that take years to finish. On a whole, Salgado’s work offers a chance to the viewers to examine the lives of those individuals and communities that they have or will hardly ever meet. He feels that a picture is not made by a photographer instead the essence of the photo lies in the relationship he has with his subjects of photography.
Although he is known for dramatic landscape photos that he creates, his most notorious works entail people – those from the impecunious countries and cities of the world. In order to study his subjects, he immerses in their life patterns and tries to know them personally as much as he is able to. He even lives with them in order to make them comfortable of his presence while documenting them.
Sebastião Salgado has a passion for global issues especially poverty. He realizes that there is a world beyond the comforting zone of Europe and America and while his photographs are touching and striking, they provide a message in fact a warning that this planet Earth is destined for a dark fate if no proper attention and care is given to its environment.