8 de março de 2014

Photographer Sebastião Salgado Talks of Life and Work in New Biography

03/07/2014 - 08H07, Folha de S.Paulo

On the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador's famous Pacific archipelago, the photographer Sebastião Salgado crawled for a whole day alongside a giant tortoise, in order to better photograph the creature.
"I crouched down and started to crawl along at its height, with my hands and knees on the floor," he says.
Salgado, 70, opens his new biography with this story, aiming to show how although photography is all about the instant, the photographer may have to wait some time for this instant to appear.
"A photograph may show that instant, but you need to walk 800 kilometers to arrive there," said Salgado, in an interview with Folha. "You need a whole lifetime to do it."
His projects often take years to complete and have involved long journeys all over the world, from Ecuador to the heart of Africa.
One of the most celebrated names in photography, Salgado has shown throughout his career a world in transition, focusing as much upon poverty in agrarian societies as upon decaying industrial economies. The aim is to compose "a visual archaeology of this era, before it all gets swept away."
"Photography is my life, but I don't think my images alone have been decisive," he says. "I see myself as part of a body of ideas, discussing essential themes of our history."
In five interviews with his friend Isabelle Francq, who wrote the biography "Da Minha Terra à Terra", Salgado goes back to his origins as a photographer, beginning with the development of his eye.
Recalling the journey from his childhood in the countryside of Minas Gerais, to the savannas of Rwanda and Burundi, Salgado tells how he abandoned a comfortable life as an economist in order to become a photographer.
His wife Lélia, an architect and a city planner, even supported the couple whilst Salgado was trying to launch his career as a photographer.
At the time, Salgado was living in Paris, having moved there at the beginning of Brazil's military dictatorship. With the recent opening of military archives, he discovered that he had been spied upon by the regime.
"I was offended when I found out that they knew everything I had in my house," said Salgado. "It was a difficult moment in my life, of great uncertainty. I even thought I might never return to my country."
He covered Lula's rise to power, and the ascent of the left in Brazilian politics, maintaining contact with key figures. The ex-president was even the star of Salgado's last exhibition, in London, in which images from his book "Genesis" went on display.
"I photographed Lula when he was still a union leader," says Salgado. "He's been my friend ever since."
Salgado has also been close to the powerful in the United States. In the book, he recalls how he witnessed and photographed an assassination attempt against President Reagan, who was shot coming out of a Washington hotel in 1981.
These images, which made a small fortune for Salgado at the time, have not been published since. Salgado is anxious that their publication might constitute an 'obstacle' to the rest of his oeuvre. Nonetheless, he assures that he will republish them when the time is right.
Now working in black and white, Salgado is in Brazil to begin work on a new project. He will travel to the Amazon region where he intends to photograph indigenous communities.
"I'm going to go into the forest with them,' he says. 'I want to climb Pico da Neblina [Brazil's highest mountain] with a group of pajés [in certain indigenous tribes, pajés are a kind of shaman]. Our true history is the history of indigenous cultures. I'm starting to work with this in mind."

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