“Salgado photographs people. Glancing photographers photograph ghosts.”
Fort he first time in Chile, Las Condes Cultural Corporation bring us the series Otras Américas by the Brazilian Sebastião Salgado. 65 images expose the courage and temperance of rural and native cultures in the continent. The images were captured between 1977 and 1984, by the eagle-eyed photographer one of his specie.
Hal Gould, US art gallery director and curator, described Salgado as “the world’s best photographer of the early 21st century.” Sebastião Salgado (Minas Gerais, Brasil, 1944) occupies a highlighted place within the photographic global spectrum together with Martin Chambi, Lewis Hine, Walker Evans, Steve MacCurri, Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Eugene Smith, and James Nachtwey.
But to open the eyes isn’t enough to feel human beauty unfolded as a big exclamation sign when confronting the most unequal face of this Otra América, black, mestiza, and Indian American that, despite of harshness, let itself to humiliate. It can be seen as is: without insipid euphemisms, nor unnecessary makes up, but as an unruly allegory to this devastating experience.
Adversity is the substrate with which Salgado reaches a poetic tone. The moving is gradually hardened to the feel. Such as this emaciated glances that trespass the imperturbable cuirass of the observer that thinks that suffer is and atavistic and usual habit rooted in this Otra América, distrusting of the photographer that dares to introduce itself among fissures to frame the image in a theatrical way, giving the well-deserved relief, to the scene as much as its protagonists. As Verónica Sánchez Marín confirms: “He has been a surgeon able to extract sensibility from harshness, brutality, and pain, and to convert it into conscience by means of the scalpel of the lens, the lamp of the flash, and the sting of a frame as characteristic as the testimony’s journalistic accuracy.”
Sebastião Salgado’s merit is in saving the imaginary of pain, emphasizing real things that seem to be implausible and even unimaginable. This way, he makes death to seem something oneiric that you don’t know if it’s an ill-gotten dream or an irreconcilable trance that work together with the scarcity of those kids that earnest play with a hundreds of bones and solitaries plastic horses, distinguished in between, which adds a magical touch that changes everything.
With Salgado you don’t know what to expect, because he always challenge indifference when confronting the paralyzing reality and creating worldly histories: “our history is the community history, not the individuality’s. This is my photography’s point of view and the starting point of all my work,” explained sometime the artist.
Expert in his profession, he knows how to favor instant and to create aphorisms framed in a black and white, that because of its accuracy, it exacerbates details to feel them. This exhibition –also– is an act of amend able to dignify the unprotected Otra América. This is a fact relentlessly reflected in the statement by the own photographer: “This work lasted seven years, or shall we say, seven centuries for me, because I had the satisfaction of going back in time.”
Misery doesn’t change. Just people, places, maybe the spectral light that covers them to give an unachievable halo does. An approach that, in itself, competes with others that have a microscopic vision of beauty. It trivializes poverty, not allowing seeing that inside the nightmare, a unique hidden treasure sleeps.
The Otra América is a tribute to this girl who carries glazed apples in her head, and chews one with a slyness of a whole continent. A continent that despite of the misfortune, rises in this exhibition especially created for Chile, where photographs were selected by the author and his curator integrating images after the first edition of the homonymous book published in 1986, that shows the heroic role of the photojournalist.
Precisely this epic and ungrateful profession became a vocation when Salgado, PhD in economy, was working in the International Coffee Organization and, after a journey to Africa commissioned by The World Bank, he felt that what he was seeing in the camera was indefinitely more transcendental that stay in his comfort area: “For the first time I looked through the lens and, immediately, photography invaded my life,” commented the artist. After three years, he joins the Sygma Agency; after that, Gamma Agency. And so on until he arrived in the prestigious agency Magnus Photo. Finally, he funded the agency Amazonas Images. All of it, not considering innumerable international recognitions such as the Prince of Asturias Award in arts in 1998, and being designates UNICEF’s special agent in 2001, after his album Retratos de los niños del éxodo (2000), until the end of the book De mi tierra a la Tierra (Memories –The Factory, 2014), a volume of travels, memories, and photographic projects. Wim Wanders and Juliano Ribeiro’s documentary, La sal de la Tierra (2014), about Sebastião Salgado is added. This documentary re-counts the origin of this essential but cutting photographer.
A tireless hunter, he goes deep in a continent that exhibits its stigmas, changing the overwhelming reality into a magical parallelism expressed to the unisonous, through a sorrowful metaphor violated by his intimidating harshness but with the compensation of having a cult photographer as Sebastião Salgado, categorically human y with the ability of seeing in the world a dimension that allows him not to lose the spell of this first time.