Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado Júnior (born February 8, 1944) is a Brazilian social documentary photographer and photojournalist.
He has traveled in over 120 countries for his photographic projects. Most of these have appeared in numerous press publications and books. Touring exhibitions of his work have been presented throughout the world.
Salgado is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. He was awarded the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Grant in 1982, Foreign Honorary Membership of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992 and the Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) in 1993. He has been a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts at the Institut de France since April 2016.
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 been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2001.
Salgado works on long term, self-assigned projects many of which have been published as books: The Other Americas, Sahel, Workers, Migrations, and Genesis. The latter three 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.
Together, Lélia and Sebastião have worked since the 1990s on the restoration of a part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. In 1998, they succeeded in turning 17,000 acres into a nature reserve and created the Instituto Terra. The institute is dedicated to a mission of reforestation, conservation and environmental education.
Between 2004 and 2011, Salgado worked on 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.
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.
Salgado and his work are the focus of the film The Salt of the Earth (2014), directed by Wim Wenders and Salgado’s son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, and produced by Lélia Wanick Salgado. The film won a special award at Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the best Documentary Feature at the 2015 Academy Awards. It won the 2014 Audience Award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival and the 2015 Audience Award at the Tromsø International Film Festival. It also won the César Award for Best Documentary Film at the 40th César Awards.
- 1982: W. Eugene Smith Grant from the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund
- 1985: Oskar Barnack Award
- 1989: Hasselblad Award, Hasselblad Foundation, Gothenburg, Sweden
- 1992: Oskar Barnack Award
- 1992: Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- 1993: Centenary Medal from the Royal Photographic Society
- 1993: Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) from the Royal Photographic Society
- 1994: Grand Prix National French Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Culture (France)
- 1998: Prince of Asturias Awards, Arts category
- 1988: King of Spain International Journalism Award
- 2003: International Award from the Photographic Society of Japan
- 2007: M2-El Mundo People’s Choice Award for best exhibition a PhotoEspaña, for Africa
- 2019: Peace Prize of the German Book Trade
- Genesis, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, May–September 2013
- Natural History Museum, London, April–September 2013
- Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, September 2013 – January 2014
- National Museum of Singapore, April–August 2014;
- Palácio das Artes, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, May–August 2014
- Fotografiska, Stockholm, June–September 2014
- Palazzo della Ragione, Milan, Italy, June–November 2014
- International Center of Photography, New York City, September 2014 – January 2015
- CaixaForum Barcelona, October 2014 – January 2015
- Sejong Center, Seoul, December 2014 – March 2015
- Cordoaria Nacional, Lisbon, April–July 2015
- CaixaForum Palma , Palma, Spain, February–May 2015
- Amerika Haus Berlin, April–August 2015
- Power Station of Art, Shanghai, April–June 2015
- Kunstfoyer Munich, October 2015 – January 2016
- Erarta, Saint Petersburg, July – October 2016
- Prague Castle, June–September 2017
- Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, June–September 2017
- Déclaration, Musée de l’Homme, Paris, December 2018 – November 2019