The
The Story
Water supplies are often far away from the refugee camps, people have to walk a long way or wait for hours for the distribution brought in by tank trucks. Zaire. 1994. Photograph by Sebastião SALGADO / AMAZONAS Images / CONTACT Press Images.

(view printable version in PDF format - requires Acrobat Reader)

In early November, PDN's Nancy Madlin had the opportunity to interview Sebastião Salgado about Migrations: Humanity in Transition, and The Children, his latest documentary project, book and exhibition. The following is an edited version of that interview which, in Salgado's own words, tells the story of this amazing project, whose grandeur, nobility of purpose and vast scope mark it clearly as the work of this unique and extraordinary photojournalist...

This a story that I began to think about during the period from 1986 to 1992 when I was shooting Workers, a documentary project on the end of large-scale manual labor in 26 countries. I began to see that we are in the middle of an incredible change in the world, a major revolution. What I saw with Workers was that the traditional ways of production were completely going or gone -- and that a huge displacement of population was occurring around the globe. Quite simply, the number of people moving around within countries, from the fields to the cities, and the number of people moving from one country to another, was much greater than ever before in human history.

"For the first time in history, the majority of the planet's population is dwelling in cities, and at the same time the concepts of borders and cultural distinctions have started to disappear."
Personally, I believe that people in the future will look back at this turning point and see it as a revolution experienced by mankind at this end-of-the-century, end-of-the-millennium historical period, this marking point of 2000 years of Christendom. This is a revolution that can be compared to the passage from the Middle Ages to the modern age at the end of the fifteenth century. The scale of change is vast. For the first time in history, the majority of the planet's population is dwelling in cities, and at the same time the concepts of borders and cultural distinctions have started to disappear.

At this time, I want to speak out for immigrants, for those who live in such circumstances, and to speak out to those who can receive them. I want to show the immigrants' dignity in their willingness to integrate into another country, to show their courage and their entrepreneurial spirit and, not least, to demonstrate how they enrich us all with their individual differences. Above all, by using migration as an example, I want to show that a true human family can only be built on foundations of solidarity and sharing.

"This story that I'm photographing is my story also. I am a migrant, too."
I know this story very well because it is my story. I made the same migrations that a great mass of the world's population is doing now. I was born on a farm in Brazil. And when I was five, I moved with my family to a small town, about 10,000 people. Then when I was 15, I went to a medium-sized town, about 120,000 people. And when I finished college, it was necessary for me to go to a big big town, to São Paulo, and in São Paulo I had some political problems and the time came to leave Brazil and I came to France. This story that I'm photographing is my story also. I am a migrant, too.

I started to develop this project in 1992, I began photographing in 1993, and I finish now in 1999. So I have been photographing this project for six-and-a-half years. And I have traveled to about 47 different countries around the world where people are moving from place to place, and shot in more than 40.

I have found this to be a story about the complete reorganization of humanity, the human family around the world.


Continue