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American Sociological Association: Sebastião Salgado Award Statement
Sebastião Salgado Award Statement
Brazilian-born documentary photographer Sebastião Salgado is
ASA’s 2010 recipient of the Excellence
in the Reporting of Social Issues Award.This award recognizes the contributions of individuals for their
promotion of sociological findings and a broader vision of sociology.
Salgado’s in-depth projects explore the issues of
inequality, development, urbanization, environmental degradation, labor,
migration, and globalization, which correspond closely to many of the core
themes of sociology.Salgado has committed
to documenting a comprehensive set of human and sociological issues with skill
and beauty, reaching a wide audience through the medium of photography.Salgado has photographed in over 100
countries, yielding over a dozen major works and books, which he has exhibited
His approach, like many sociologists, is to spend long
periods of time with his subjects whether it is in refugee camps, on job sites,
or in agricultural communities, or among herds of animals in isolated
areas.He has devoted a lifetime to
recording economic and social change, conflict and global development.Through the medium of black and white
photography, Salgado’s work brings his audience very close to these conditions
and opens the door to understanding the human condition.
Salgado never set out to “do sociology.” Growing up in swiftly developing Brazil of the
1950s and 1960s influenced Salgado’s career path first to economics, and then
Salgado trained as an economist at the University of Paris
before turning his eye to visual representations of global social issues. Salgado
moved to London prior to writing his PhD thesis
and worked as an economist at the International Coffee Organization (ICO)
making field visits to Africa.His wife Lélia Wanick Salgado was a student
in architecture and urban planning at the time, and bought a camera to take
architectural pictures.It was in using
his wife’s camera that Salgado understood the role photography could play in
communicating complex ideas.As he said
in a recent interview in Contexts:
looked inside this camera and I rediscovered life!As an economist it was impossible to tell the
things I could tell with photography.” 
Within a few years, Salgado quit his job and moved back to Paris with his wife where
they had studied in previous years. In
the early 1970s, Salgado took on photojournalism, first as a freelancer and
then with some of the most prestigious photo agencies in the world: Sygma,
Gamma and Magnum.
Salgado eventually started his own Paris agency in 1994, Amazonas Images, and
continues to spend much of his time out in the field, around the world.
As a photojournalist, Salgado photographed Africa, Europe
and Latin America. His first book, Other Americas,
focused on indigenous
Latin Americans and was published in 1984.He followed with a project
reporting on the African famine, in conjunction with Doctors Without Borders.
A six-year project in 26 countries yielded Workers: An Archeology of the Industrial Era
(1993) and portrayed the end of the age of large-scale industrial manual
labor.That project inevitably led him
to document the movement of people throughout the world in two publications, Migrations
, and Portraits of Children of the Migration
Salgado’s current project Genesis
, which began in 2004, sends him to some of the most remote
places on the planet to document landscape, wildlife and humans yet to be
touched by human development.
Salgado and his wife founded a nonprofit in the Brazilian
state Minas Gerais, Instituto Terra.The
organization’s mission is to restore the area to its original state, but as
important to become a center of excellence in the areas of restoration and
environmental education, sustainable development and social mobilization.
Singer, “Behind the Lens: The Social Photography of Sebastião
, August 2010.