Migrations: Sebastião Salgado
Passionate about the powerful ability of images to change minds, many of Sebastião Salgado’s in-depth series’ record some of the world’s poorest and defenceless communities, revealing courage and hope in even the most dismal of circumstances. Although his photos alone will not change the world, they are a stimulant for global awareness together with larger movements for action.
Arguably one of Salgado’s most influential series, ‘Migrations’ documents population growth, mass migration and human displacement around the globe. Depicting the demographic change and global flux of humanity, the series presents profound challenges to communities that emerge from wars, natural disasters, environmental change, population growth and the ever-expanding class divide. These factors have doubled the number of international migrants in the last decade, this collection by Salgado demonstrating the causal moving of human populations, displaying suffering and courage juxtaposed.
‘Migrations’ outlines a variety of narratives, from following a group Latin Americans entering the US to Kosovars fleeing into Albania. Spanning over 6 years and 35 countries, Salgado has photographed the extent of the migrant crisis alongside the beautiful yet bleak moments of each person’s exile story. When describing his experience capturing the faces of those in transition; “They were frightened, uncomfortable and humiliated. Yet they allowed themselves to be photographed, I believe, because they wanted their plight to be made known. When I could, I explained to them that this was my purpose. Many just stood before my camera and addressed it as they might a microphone.”
Salgado fully engrossed himself by entering the lives of his subjects, joining those packed into crowded boats or living amongst those within refugee camps to achieve truly heart-stopping images. ‘Mali, 1985’, is an image that is powerful in its simplicity, one that exposes the honesty in his work. Salgado followed a mother walking the landscape of sand with her two malnourished children through the Region of the Lake Faguibine in Mali, Africa. Not only does this outline the risks one must take to avoid the causal effects of what befell their home, but her child in the foreground’ presence is one of painful insight into the lack of nutrition and care they had access to. The movement in the image, similar to his other works in the series, mirrors the series subject matter, migration, presenting the constant need to keep moving in hopes of an improved lifestyle.
One of the first photographic surveys of this crisis, the images often generate a multitude of issues to a spectator, confronting one with a harsh truth. There are over 100 million migrants in the world today, with every year 40 million people leaving their homes to move to the big cities and 25 million refugees seek shelter and safety in other countries. This series reminds us of this cruel reality, documenting evidence of the vast displacement of humanity throughout the world towards the end of the 20th century.
The ArtistUndertaking projects of vast temporal and geographic scope, Sebastião Salgado is one of the most celebrated photojournalists working today.Sebastião Salgado