Sebastiao Salgado: Biography highlights

Sebastião Salgado is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and among other distinctions, he was named an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in the USA.

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Full biography of Sebastiao Salgado

Sebastiao Salgado’s background

Born in 1944 in Minas Gerais, Brazil, Sebastião lives in Paris, France and is married to Lélia Wanick Salgado. They have two sons and two grandchildren.

Having studied economics, Salgado began his career as a professional photographer in 1973 in Paris, working with photo agencies among which Magnum Photos until 1994, when he and Lélia founded Amazonas images, formed exclusively to represent his work in the field.

He has travelled to over 100 countries for his photographic projects and his work has been presented in a number of 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), Africa (2007), Genesis (2013), The Scent of a Dream (2015), Kuwait, a desert on fire (2016) and Gold, Serra Pelada Gold Mine (2019). All books were edited, conceived and designed by Lélia Wanick Salgado.

Touring exhibitions of these works have been, and continue to be, presented in museums and galleries throughout the world, mostly curated by Lélia.

2013 saw the launch of the book De ma terre à la Terre (From my land to the planet), a narrative of Salgado’s life and career, written by French journalist Isabelle Francq. In 2014, the documentary film The Salt of the Earth was released. Co-directed by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, the film was selected for major film festivals and won the Special Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival in the ‘’Certain Regard’’ section, as well as France’s César Award for Best Documentary Film in 2015 and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Documentary at the 87th Academy Awards.

Salgado is currently working on a photographic project about Brazil’s Amazon forest and its inhabitants, the indigenous communities which aims to raise awareness of the threats they face from illegal logging, gold mining, dam building, cattle and soybean farming and, increasingly, climate change.

Sebastião has received numerous photographic prizes and prestigious honours, such as the Grand Prix National, Ministry of Culture, France ; the Príncipe de Asturias Award for Arts, Spain ; the Medal of Presidenza della Repubblica Italiana, International, Research Center Pio Manzù, Italy. He was also named Comendador da Ordem do Rio Branco in Brazil, and Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Ministry of Culture in France.

In 2016, he was elected member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts of Institut de France and in the same year, France also named him Chevalier (Knight) de la Légion d’Honneur. In 2018, he was made Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Culturel by the Principality of Monaco. And in 2019, he was elected Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, USA and honoured with the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, Germany.

Since the 1990’s, Lélia and Sebastião have worked on the restoration of part of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil, in the state of Minas Gerais. 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.


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Watch Sebastiao in action

1/4 videos
The silent drama of photography | Sebastião Salgado
The silent drama of photography | Sebastião Salgado
Drauzio Entrevista | Sebastião Salgado
Drauzio Entrevista | Sebastião Salgado
Sebastião Salgado, Hammer Museum
Sebastião Salgado, Hammer Museum

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