February 4, 1944
Minas Gerais, Brazil
Salgado was born on February 8, 1944 in Aimorés, in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. After a somewhat itinerant childhood, Salgado initially trained as an economist, earning a master’s degree in economics from the University of São Paulo in Brazil. He began work as an economist for the International Coffee Organization, often traveling to Africa on missions for the World Bank, when he first started seriously taking photographs. He chose to abandon a career as an economist and switched to photography in 1973, working initially on news assignments before veering more towards documentary-type work. Salgado initially worked with the photo agency Sygma and the Paris-based Gamma, but in 1979 he joined the international cooperative of photographers Magnum Photos. He left Magnum in 1994 and with his wife Lélia Wanick Salgado formed his own agency, Amazonas Images, in Paris, to represent his work. He is particularly noted for his social documentary photography of workers in less developed nations. They reside in Paris.
He has traveled in over 100 countries for his photographic projects. Most of these, besides appearing in numerous press publications, have also been presented in books such as Other Americas (1986), Sahel: l’homme en détresse (1986), Sahel: el fin del camino (1988), Workers (1993), Terra (1997), Migrations and Portraits (2000), and Africa (2007). Touring exhibitions of this work have been, and continue to be, presented throughout the world. Longtime gallery director Hal Gould considers Salgado to be the most important photographer of the early 21st century, and gave him his first show in the United States.
Salgado has been awarded numerous major photographic prizes in recognition of his accomplishments. He is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States. He was awarded The Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) in recognition of a sustained, significant contribution to the art of photography in 1993.
Together, Lélia and Sebastião have worked since the 1990s on the restoration of a small part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. In 1998 they succeeded in turning this land into a nature reserve and created the Instituto Terra. The Instituto is dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation and environmental education.
In 2004, Sebastião Salgado began a project named "Genesis," aiming at the presentation of the unblemished faces of nature and humanity. It consists of a series of photographs of landscapes and wildlife, as well as of human communities that continue to live in accordance with their ancestral traditions and cultures. This body of work is conceived as a potential path to humanity’s rediscovery of itself in nature.
Salgado works on long term, self-assigned projects many of which have been published as books: The Other Americas, Sahel, Workers, and Migrations. The later two are mammoth collections with hundreds of images each from all around the world. His most famous pictures are of a gold mine in Brazil called Serra Pelada. He is presently working on a project called Genesis, photographing the landscape, flora and fauna of places on earth that have not been taken over by man.
In September and October 2007, Salgado displayed his photographs of coffee workers from India, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Brazil at the Brazilian Embassy in London. The aim of the project was to raise public awareness of the origins of the popular drink.
Note: Dates refer to English-language editions.
- An Uncertain Grace (1992)
- Workers: An Archaeology of the Industrial Age (1993), includes photos from 26 countries
- Terra (1997)
- Migrations (2000), includes photos from 39 countries
- The Children: Refugees and Migrants (2000)
- Sahel: The End of the Road (2004)
- Africa (2007)
- Genesis (2013)
- Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Award Accessed 13 August 2012
Further reading 
- Sage, Adam (September 5, 2007). "Taking the espresso train". The Times. Retrieved 2007-09-08.
- Amazonas Images Photo agency formed by Salgado and his wife Lélia Wanick.
- Biography at The Guardian
- "Back to Nature, in Pictures and Action," New York Times, May 31, 2009
- "Genesis by Sebastião Salgado: Exhibition Review" Huffington Post UK, May 2013