Sebastião Salgado was born on February 8, 1944, in Aimorés, Brazil. After an early career as an economist, he decided to become a photographer in the 1970s. Salgado has earned fame for his stark photos of people coping with the effects of poverty, famine, industrialization and political oppression. He has published several books and has received awards for his socially conscious photojournalism.
Early Years and Education
Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado Jr. was born on February 8, 1944, in the small town of Aimorés, Brazil. The son of a cattle rancher, he grew up on a farm with his seven sisters.
Salgado attended school first in Aimorés and then in the coastal city of Vitoria. After completing his college education, he earned a master's degree in economics from the University of São Paulo. He began to study for a doctorate in economics at the University of Paris, but moved to London to work as an economist for the International Coffee Organization. He returned to Paris in 1973.
Salgado became interested in photography when he was 26 years old, and he soon decided to forego economics to begin a career as a photojournalist. He worked as a freelancer for several major photographic agencies from 1974 through '94, traveling the world to document news events. His work appeared in newspapers and magazines in numerous countries.
Salgado's photography has often focused on the effects of hardship, poverty and oppression on people of various cultures, and with the effects of industrialization on the natural landscape. Inspired by the photojournalism of Lewis Hine, W. Eugene Smith and Walker Evans, Salgado has tackled subjects like famine, poverty and social inequality in black-and-white photos that are unsparing yet often beautiful.
In 1977, Salgado began to photograph the rural peasants of Latin America; this series was published in 1986 as his first book, Other Americas. Around this time, he worked with the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders on a project documenting the effects of famine in Africa. He published two books of these photographs, titled Sahel: Man in Distress and Sahel: The End of the Road, and donated proceeds from the sales to Doctors Without Borders.
From 1986 to '92, Salgado traveled to 23 countries to visit manual laborers in large-scale industrial and agricultural sites, including oil fields and commercial fisheries. This led to his 1993 book Workers, which revealed the humanity of these individuals even as they toiled under harsh conditions. His series Migrations, begun in 1993 and published as a book in 2000, focused on large groups of people who have immigrated or relocated under duress, especially from rural areas to cities.
For Genesis, a project begun in 2004 and published in 2013, Salgado turned his attention back to the landscape and wildlife, traveling to the most remote parts of the globe to photograph places where nature remains untouched by human development.
Salgado has received numerous awards for his photojournalism and has twice been named Photographer of the Year by the International Center of Photography.
Personal Life and Other Projects
Salgado is a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences.
He and his wife, Lélia, an architect and urban planner, were married in 1967. Together they founded the photographic agency Amazonas Images to represent Salgado's work. They have also worked together on the restoration of Brazilian rainforests, and they co-founded an environmental education center called Instituto Terra in 1998.
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