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Sebastião Salgado: In praise of dignity


The Franco-Brazilian photographer’s work is on display at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An itinerary on a planet where the text is more relevant than ever.

Two men from the back, their eyes riveted on the horizon, their arms stretched out in a strange pose reminiscent of the graceful gestures of a tightrope walker. Mixed Indians in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, are thanking the goddess of the land and fertility they believe in. Beside, another photograph captures the eyes: a man alone in the middle of the Sahara, the sand dunes lost to infinity in front of him … “It’s Mohamed, my Tuareg driver when I was in the desert. He is praying. he is turned toward Mecca “explains Sebastião Salgado who has decided to open his exhibition on this article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:” Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion “. The article, like many others, is inscribed on top of a picture rail and sounds great with Salgado’s photographs. There is an obviousness in this exhibition, a marriage between words and images that works decisively. “I’ve always had this text in the back of my mind since I started this job,” says the photographer.


In fact, Salgado’s photographs are an ode to humanity. The photographer knows perfectly how to seize the individuals involved in the great collective march. He knows how to immortalize them at the heart of contemporary issues and reveals all their nuances. Not far from people praying, here are people who suffer. Children behind barbed wire in Croatian territory occupied by Serbs in 1994. Girls who have just undergone excision in Somalia and whose legs are tied by a string to avoid a tearing of their flesh. A young man and his dog who have just been expelled from their home because of unpaid rent, it happenned June 22, 1979 in Garges-lès-Gonesse in France. With Salgado, there is always a picture of dignity even in pain. “I seek to preserve the dignity of the human beings I photograph,” he says and answer the question: “if there was an article of the Declaration of Human Rights that you would retain, which one? “,” The right to dignity “.


Dignity is also the work that protects it. In India, in Rajasthan, a woman is building a huge canal. Dressed in traditional clothes, she holds a shovel in her hand and digs. She is part of a caste of workers. Right next to itr, Salgado photographed fishermen in Sicily in Italy. They fish tuna by hand, far from modern methods used especially in Japan where trawlers take tens of thousands of fish. For Salgado, it is important to show this humanity that lives in harmony with its environment. An environment sometimes difficult: proof is of this photograph taken in Kabul the day after the victory of the Taliban. The city is in ruins and people continue to live in spite of buildings in ruins. There, people finds refuge in a humanitarian camp in Tanzania. We are in 1994 and Salgado catches the look between a mother and her child. “The child is protected by the mother, but she is not protected,” said the photographer, who was able to make the picture so appalling.

Jean-Baptiste Gauvin



Déclarations, Sebastiao Salgado
From December 08, 2018 to June 30, 2019
Museum of Man
17 Place du Trocadéro and 11th of November
75116 Paris


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