ARTICLE

10 great Sebastião Salgado quotes about photojournalism

Sebastião Salgado’s black-and-white picture of firefighters tackling the Kuwait oil fires in 1991.

World-renowned photojournalist Sebastião Salgado is known for his intensely demanding, long-term projects that focus on themes of nature and humanity. ‘Workers’, ‘Migrations’ and ‘Genesis’ are three such projects that comprise hundreds of pictures from around the world.

Creating powerful black-and-white imagery that has the power to instigate change has become Salgado’s life mission. “Photography is the language that gives people the opportunity to see what you saw,” he says.

But the former Magnum photographer started out on a different track to documentary photography: he studied economics in Brazil and journeyed to Paris to complete a PhD before turning to photography in 1973.

Taken from the below interview on the Canon stand at The Photography Show 2017, here are 10 Sebastião Salgado quotes that lift the lid on what photojournalism is really about:

1. Take your time
“Photography is much more than just taking pictures – it is a way of life. What you feel, what you want to express, is your ideology and your ethics. It’s a language that allows you to travel over the wave of history.”

2. Infuse your photography with your ideals
“Photography is deeply subjective. It is my way of seeing – my pictures are made with my political and ideological ideas.”

3. Make the most of your access
“It is a privilege to be a photographer – to have the opportunity to be there.”

4. Don’t rush a story
“When you [capture] a story, it must be your story, your choice. You must have 100 per cent identification with your story – a patience with the subject that you shoot.”

Sebastião Salgado’s coverage of the 1991 Kuwait oil fires.

5. Discuss and consider your stories
“I have a partner that I work with: my wife. The most important thing in all my life was the day that I met my wife. I met her in 1964 and every story that I photographed, we considered, we discussed together. We were motivated by the same ethical and political reasons to do these stories.”

Sebastião Salgado’s coverage of the Kuwait oil fires in 1991.

6. Prepare a strong concept
“The time spent photographing in the field is only one per cent of the time. The time I take to consider – to prepare, to design, to have the concept – is a full lifetime. That’s the point with photography.”

7. Live your photography
“When you see these pictures they are much more than just nice pictures, than just a story. It is my life.”

8. Don’t take life for granted
“I am not a believer. But if there is one power superior that can guide us, for me, it is evolution. How we came to be what we are today – what a culmination of experience we have. There is a big power there.”

9. All of Earth’s creatures are equal
On his picture, Marine iguana, Galápagos, Ecuador, 2004: “Every movement in the arm of the iguana is the same that we have in our arm – I identify with the iguana as my cousin. All of us came from the same cells. In a moment it was possible to be an iguana and the iguana to be me.”

10. Photographers are the eyes of the world
“Photography is the language that gives people the opportunity to see what you saw.”

Sebastião Salgado’s book Kuwait: A Desert on Fire, featuring his series of the burning Kuwaiti oil fields of the 1991 Gulf War, is available now from Taschen for €49.90 (£44.99).