An Uncertain Grace
- Shafer, Audrey
- Date of entry: Aug-09-2002
- Last revised: May-17-2007
This powerful book of black and white photographs contains four sections labeled: I. The End of Manual Labor, 1986-, II. Diverse Images 1974-87, III. Famine in the Sahel, 1984-85, and IV. Latin America, 1977-84. In addition, photographs accompany the prose-poetry opening essay, "Salgado, 17 Times," by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano and the concluding essay, "The Lyric Documentarian," by former New York Times picture editor Fred Ritchin. This oversize book concludes with a list of captions for the photographs and a detailed two-page biography of Salgado. Essentially the photographs cover Salgado’s impressive work from 1974-89.
Every image is of a person or people. Many are suffering, many are starving, grieving, keening, dying, displaced. Many are children. Many are laboring under impossibly harsh conditions such as the teeming, mud-coated manual laborers of the Brazilian Serra Pelada gold mine. An Ethiopian father anoints the corpse of his famine starved, skin and bone child with oil. An old man, squinting in the sun, leans over to touch the arm of an equally thin and weak man in a Sudanese refugee camp. Rarely, the people are smiling or celebrating.
The photographs are global: Angola, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chad, Cuba, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico, Portugal, Sudan, Thailand, and more. As Galeano notes, "This much is certain: it would be difficult to look at these figures and remain unaffected. I cannot imagine anyone shrugging his shoulder, turning away unseeing, and sauntering off, whistling." (p. 7) [156 pp.]
New York: Aperture (1990)
Salgado, a native Brazilian, states, "The picture is not made by the photographer . . . the picture is more good or less good in function of the relationship that you have with the people you photograph." (p. 146) The relationships he sought for these photographs are extended and extensive.
For example, he spent fifteen months in the Sahel region of Africa documenting the effects of the drought and famine while working for Médicins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders). Proceeds from his book devoted to that topic went to the humanitarian organization. Perhaps it is this sense of empathy of photographer for subject that projects to the viewer. That allows the viewer, the voyeur, to feel sympathy, to see horror without hardening to its recurrent, seemingly overwhelming tragedies.