Discuss a Sebastiao Salgado photograph x2!

Discussion in 'Discussing a ****** Photograph' started by Jim Chinn, Nov 11, 2006.

  1. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I have always considered Salgado one of the greatest photographers of all time. I am simply going to post a pair of images and see what others think.
    Feel free to post links to other images of his you enjoy.

    With multiple postings of images perhaps we can have a longer ongoing discussion of his work.

    Here is a good selection of his work:http://www.peterfetterman.com/htmls/artists_detail.cfm?artistid=46


    The two images I selected are Iceberg Between Paulette Island and the Shetland Islands, Antartica, 2005 andChurch Gate Station, Western Railroad Line, Bombay, India, 1995.
     

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  2. eric

    eric Member

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    I really love his work. I had a chance to meet him one day. The lab owner I worked at was from Argentina and knew Sebastiao. For some reason, I wasn't at work when he came. His images are just truely awesome. I don't know who his printer is but that's some good printing.
     
  3. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Hard to talk about just one image with Salgado, and like many others I have admired his work for a long time. He seems to have become sme sort of "photo god", and even gives his long term projects biblical names, i.e. "Exodus" for the migrations work, and currently "Genesis" for this arctic (or is it antarctic?) work.

    His ability to show the human condition in such a dignified way is his extraordinary strength as a photographer. I just wish he would edit his work a little more tightly, and publish some smaller (well... more affordable) books.

    As for the train photograph in particular... it's a wonderful testament to the ability of photography and Salgado as a photographer to document this teeming humanity of a crowded train station, and also be an absolute visual feast for the eyes.

    I find the iceberg photo quite a lovely landscape. and he always uses this wonderful light (back light?) in a lot of his work. Interesting to see he still uses it in such a different context. Though, this landscape work may need the context of the whole portfolio to really be appreciated
     
  4. eric

    eric Member

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    Is it back lit? Unfortunately, there aren't any Sebastiao Salgado books in any of my libraries here. I usually take out the same ones and I study them.
    I'll have to take a look at some more and see if lots of the photo are back lit. I do recall the little girl with the angel wings and the sun in the background. What an image. I wouldn't want to be the one printing that! Looks like a very difficult image to print with just the right exposure and heavy, heavy burning in the back.
    But his printing style (or his printer's printing style) is a little heavy. Dark images with just what you want to see come out of the darkness.
     
  5. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    You might have some more of his books in your library if they were a wee bit more affordable!! (Grumble... grumble...! :tongue: )

    You are making me look at his light more carefully, now, Eric! But, yeah.. he seems to choose if not always back light, then strong directional light at least. And he really seems to choose to photograph on days of "changeable" weather. No days where the overcast clouds are working like a giant softbox, or when the skies are clear!!

    Oh... almost forgot, yeah the printing is certainly expressive. I've seen a lot of his prints, and they are gorgeous, and really do emphasize his sense of light and how he chooses to use it.
     
  6. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    I'd agree with Eric's comments re the quality of the prints. I believe Salgado uses a French Printer but I don't know his name. With regard to Salgado's work I am somewhat dubious of his principles, let me explain why. When he first came to prominence with his gold mine pictures I thought they were wonderful examples of documentary photography. However, in the next few years I saw two TV documentaries about Salgado which left me feeling uneasy about his approach. In the interviews Salgado seemed to be only interested in making money from his documentary work and seemed to be quite cynical about his subjects. Please don't think I'm criticising someone for making a profit from what he does, I'm a freeleance photographer and know that money has to be earned in order to pay the bills etc. I am struggling to find the best words to describe the feelings I had when watching the TV films other than to say there was something disturbing in Salgado's attitude.

    I wrestled with these feelings for several years as he continued to produce some stunning work and began to think that I was unfair and totally wrong in my original thoughts. At this point and in the space of three years I got to work with two very high profile Magnum photographers independant of each other both asked me, totally out of the blue, what I thought of Salgado. I told tham what I have said here and they both agreed with me and were not very complimentary about the man. In fact one resigned from Magnum because of his attitude although that can be discounted as the egos run high when there is a bunch of such talent together in one organisation.

    I do still enjoy some of his work and I am always very excited about the prints when I see a show and wonder if it is the actual print that I'm enjoying more than the image. I sometimes feel guilty when I express these feelings for they are simply based on seeing two films where the man was interviewed although the two Magnum photographers who seemed to confirm my views are very experienced and highly respected men.
     
  7. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Les, I hear ya!

    For a communist, he certainly has become quite the extraordinary entrepreneur!
     
  8. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    I believe the biting description has been "anasthetic aesthetic"

    There is something corny about some of the kid images but I think he does a good job. Remember, he's ONE GUY and think of how much awareness he has created with his shooting, all around the world.*

    One can be a very very good man without being certified as a saint. And I don't believe that his social and personal goals are really antithetical.

    ---

    * (and how much Rodinal he has sold :tongue: )
     
  9. roteague

    roteague Member

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    His work is OK. I don't have any other feelings toward it other than that; I certainly don't find it stunning as others do.
     
  10. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Regardless of his motivation, I still think he produces stunning images. As far as his printing goes, it reminds me quite a bit of Eugene Smith. Smith printed rather dark in many of his best images and used the light (not just what is an illuminated highlight) as the key element in the image.

    What I have always found interesting is that you can gloss past any number of images of war refugees or people in living in unbelievable poverty. We have seen so many they hardly register on our brains.. But Salgado somehow is able to present an image that has a certain beauty that the viewer cannot easily dismiss. I think that is the strength of his work.

    As far as his books, I agree that they are priced out of my range. But just to make sure I don't add any filthy lucre to his pockets I will only buy one if it shows up at the used bookstore..
     
  11. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Those are the type of images that just turn me off. I can get that kind of stuff on any news site. I look to photography for its ability to portray what is good and acceptable, not what is ugly and evil.
     
  12. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    I had a chance to see an extensive exhibit of his work several years ago at the Center for Photography in NYC a few years ago. It was drop dead, knockout stunning. I was viscerally moved by a lot of the images, both because of their intrinsic beauty, and because of the subject matter. I am really sorry to read Les's account of the man, though. It seems so incongruous for a man's sensibility that can look so deeply and truthfully at what he photographs with apparant sincerity to be, in another frame of mind, so calous about the same subject. .
     
  13. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Really? Is one more valid than the other? I certainly dont't look to photography for the good or acceptable but an emotional response which I subsequently feel enriched by, whether moved in a positive or negative way. Have I gained insight, llearned something or found a new angle? I agree with the former poster that there is a quality in Salgados images which allows him to process the cliches and ideas/concepts lacking novelty in a way that does demand a second look. Everything he does is tired, yet his work is not, to me that is quite an achievement.

    Regading Les's post, I cannot of course disagree as I don't know him or any of his associates. I can in some respects understand S.S's cynicism regarding the 'realities' he covers and the precieved causes. As a (young) person who has witnessed conflicts in Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan, I too find myself extremely cynical. Certain sympathies evaporate and there is a desensitisation to the emotional components which some find novel, challenging, worrying etc, but often interest in others. In some respects the details get lost amongst a greater understanding the more messes you witness. There tend to be the same selfish, unpleasant human tendencies wherever you go. Factored into this is that a human only has so much to emotion that can be kept 'alive' and when moving from one apocalypse to another, you just cannot keep giving it out and chewing it over. Often the enthusiasm to engage on the part of those who find such concepts novel is far beyond the capabilty of those more wearied by it all. I dont know if this is related to the same cynicism Les is referring to; I suspect not. I suspect Les is talking about something different that is more exploitation related as I would imagine all I have said is taken for granted. I guess you can be wearied but respectful or simply avoid the debate and decline the request for answers. Doing so would not make you a cynic. Les, ca you elaborate?

    Regarding his work, I do love the prints. I do love his ability to add a perverse epic romance to things which should not have such appeal. His images are arguably effective because, en masse, they captivate but certainly do not represent thee reality which he purports to over. If he was realistic he would undoubtedly be less effective both as a businessman and a service provider. Perhaps his romance further adds a sense of injustice and contradiction to what we know certainly is not romantic or beautiful.

    Tom
     
  14. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    The two images shown are certainly diametrically oposites. I find nothing exceptional about the iceberg except the subject matter.
    The train station photograph is quite something else, and must be seen in a major enlargement to be fully appreciated (as his gold mine images are, also).
    I had the great priviledge of attending a major show of his work last year, and although I was almost open-mouthed at the images, I don't feel that the printing is all that great. Competent, yes, but not more.
    While my own opinion is to agree that he is one of the world's greatest photographers, only time will tell if that is so.
    As to his apparent prime motivation being financial, remember that he started life as an economist. And unlike Gene Smith, his family will not go hungery when he pawns his cameras to pay for booze and drugs.
     
  15. roteague

    roteague Member

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    To me it is.
     
  16. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I have always loved the railroad station image and the blurring of all the people moving towards the camera position. It almost seems as if everyone is making up one giant organism.

    The iceberg struck me becuase it is quite a departure from his usual subject matter. Also this reproduction is pretty bad. I have seen a couple of magazine images that show a wonderful range of tones and detail not seen with this JPEG.
     
  17. mark

    mark Member

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    his eye and his printer's amazing ability produces some powerful work. I am not sure the two can be seperated. JMO
     
  18. vet173

    vet173 Member

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    I have seen his prints in person and they are amazing. He has the ability to know when to trip the shutter, but the printing, that's what makes the difference. All his prints should be co-signed. I am also in roberts camp, I do landscapes, and moved on to the Brett Weston print.
     
  19. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    Is this a criticism of Salgado's photography specifically...and these images? Sounds more like a criticsm of reportage/photojournalism in general to me. He is not claiming to represent what is beautiful and good, so his failure to produce photographs in this vein cannot possibly be deemed a deficiency on his part. Its a bit like saying in a critique on prestige two seater sports cars that you don't like ferraris because they are no good off road, when this applies to ALL sports cars of this type.
     
  20. Masuro

    Masuro Member

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    I like his work very much and I was lucky enough to see a few of his photographs at an History of Photography exhibit in Seoul. His book Essays was on sale for a good price but, alas, sold out by the time I got there.
    The iceberg shot reminds me of photos of gothic cathedrals I have seen. Beautiful sky. The trains and the people moving between them look like worms to me. Mechanical worms and a mass-of-people worm. Great photograph.
    Does anyone know what kind of camera he uses for his photographs? Large format? 35mm?
     
  21. Rob Skeoch

    Rob Skeoch Advertiser Advertiser

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    Salgado was one of the photographers that made prints available to us for free when I did work for Doctors Without Borders. It was a fair exchange because some of the images he wanted were at MSF clinics and hospitals.

    I always enjoyed working with him. I can't comment on the two movies Les saw since I didn't see them, or what the other Magnum shooters think.

    I thought his prints were nice and always liked to use his work in MSF publications.
    -Rob
     
  22. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    He was shooting 35mm Leica (M & R) but has "graduated" to a Mamiya 7, if I recall correctly.

    Salgado's printer is Philippe Bachelier

    Migrations and Workers are the books to get....
     
  23. patrickjames

    patrickjames Member

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    It was interesting to read Les' words. For me Salgado will always make beautiful photographs, but they don't resonate with a great depth to me. Whenever someone mentions Salgado, I always also think of Nachtwey as well. I saw his prints before I knew who he was and was floored by them. Salgado has never had that effect on me. After learning more about Nachtwey and his images, I believe it is easy to see that he is the real deal all the way down to his soul. Maybe that is why his images are so powerful, more so than Salgado's. Though I will say it again, Salgado is a great photographer, probably one of the best ever, regardless of his ego or why he makes images.

    Patrick