A few years ago I took a photojournalism course. Part of the curriculum required each of the students to do a presentation about a prominent photographer. I was assigned Sebastião Salgado. I knew a little about his photography then, but I'm really glad I got to study his career and achievements a little bit deeper.
Sebastião Salgado, born in Brazil in 1944, is today regarded as one of the world's best photojournalists. He began his career as an economist, obtaining a Master in Economics from Sao Paulo University in Brazil, and later completing coursework for a PhD at Paris University, France. In 1973, while working as an economist for the International Coffee Organisation in London, he decided to switch to photography and the rest, as they say, is history. He went on to travel the world to create a truly amazing body of work. Salgado worked for celebrated agencies like Magnum and Gamma, and since 1994 has his own called Amazonas Images.
His work consists mostly of photo-essays or long-term documentary projects. Looking at his books, one gets the impression that what matters is not so much a single photograph, but the story behind a series. Don't get me wrong, every single one of his photographs is amazing in its own right, but looking at a body of work is so much more powerful.
Salgado's bio in Amazonas Images lists the following as his main photographic essays.
1978: On the problems of accommodations and living conditions in the "4000 Habitations," La Courneuve, suburb of Paris. Work ordered by the Local Council in order to create a major exhibition exposing this problem.
1979: Photographic research on the varying degrees of success of how immigrants have integrated themselves in European Society. Work mainly carried out in France, Holland, Germany, Portugal and Italy.
1977/1984: Research on the living conditions of peasants and the cultural resistance of the Indians and their descendants in Latin America. Work mainly carried out from Mexico to Brazil.
1986/1992: Documentary project on the end of large-scale manual labour, working in 26 countries.
1994/1999: "Population Movements around the World." Thirty-six photographic investigations on migration, throughout the world.
2001: Series of reportages on the global polio eradication campaign done by UNICEF and WHO.
In 2013 he did the following talk at TED.
Salgado is no doubt one of the photographers I admire the most. I strongly recommend everyone to have a look at his work, you won't be disappointed. His work is truly remarkable and profoundly inspiring.