Interesting interview with Rolling Stone magazine at Sebastião Salgado.
I guess everyone asks her about the fact that she only uses black and white. Does it bother you that they ask? I’m sure nobody asked Picasso why he did not paint Guernica in color.
No, it does not bother me. It is more than normal that I ask myself this question, because most of the photographs are in color.
Well, then I ask her too: why?
For me, black and white is an abstraction, it is a way of concentrating, of not diverting my attention from what is the real object of my interest. If I photographed in color, maybe once I saw the printed photo I would realize that the greens have the upper hand over the other colors. Instead, while I’m doing the same black and white photo, green, like yellow, red or brown, turns gray. There is a whole series, a shade of different grays that allow me to transfer what interests me. And I’m absolutely certain that the moment you look at that picture, in a certain sense you will see colors, you will attribute them to them. This makes me feel at ease, it makes me feel good not to have to worry about the color. Let me be clear, mine is not a criticism of color photography, there are many talented photographers who use color.
What do you care about human beings?
Show their personality, their dignity.
And of these young people who met for Master of Photography?
I have had a great time. Not because they are photographers, but because they are human beings with their joys, complexity, problems.
I saw a film last night, where the character of a Hollywood producer told an aspiring actor that he succeeded in succeeding one in a million, even if he has the talent of Marlon Brando. Is this also for photography?
Yes, because it is a problem that affects all sectors, the whole society and not just the creative community. What do you know, take the doctors: one or two become great, but there are many doctors and they are just as important.
And how do you become one of the few very successful?
There is a kind of natural selection where some people become points of reference, but it does not mean they are the best. Our society is made like this.
Today everyone has a camera in his mobile phone and every day billions of photographs are taken. Is it good or bad?
It is neither negative nor positive, it simply has nothing to do with photography. What is done with these devices is a completely different thing, we use technology to transform images into a language. Photography has a more complex function, which is that of memory. Photography is the thing that your parents did to you when you were a child and put on an album, which you can browse through many years later and tell your story. That photograph will be a bit ruined, a little wrinkled, but it will still be there when your parents are gone and you can keep it. Everyone makes photographs, it’s true, but they’re just a language of communication. Today we can say that perhaps the true photographers are less than those who existed 30 years ago.
And who are the true photographers?
Those who choose the photo, print it and take it as a reference point, as a moment to stop the story.
One of his best known books is Other Americas, which documents life in the South American countryside. Who are the others today?
There are many “others” in the world today and I’m photographing some of them, especially those that are not considered by anyone. There are many organizations that talk about the future of humanity and try to understand or anticipate how this future will be made of technology, space, new energy, transport, high-speed communication, but no one in these hypotheses and projections on the future inserts those that are the communities that today live like we lived thousands of years ago, and that are very important. They are those communities that have had no contact with modernity, with the world as we know it today. Only half of the world has access to technology, because the other half is not even worthy of forecasts? Here I am interested in the other half. I’m doing a job inside the Amazon rainforest and in September I photographed a tribe of Indios with whom we came into contact three years ago and until 2015 ignored the existence of cars, aircraft, telephones, concrete buildings .
Why document this with photography? Is it still current as a medium?
It is still an important medium. Very important. It has an advantage over other communication languages, because it does not need translation. A video or a script needs to be decoded in China, Brazil or Italy, photography does not. Its power lies in the universality of the lexicon.
Today photography is an important part of the art markets. Do you attend them?
I work and travel a lot and time is short. Until five or six years ago I had never seen a photography fair, then I went to Paris Photo. To see all those photographs pass from hand to hand in a million dollar turn I thought, “Good! It is nice that photography has taken all this importance “. Then I went back the following year and I realized that something was wrong. There were historical photographs of Cartier Bresson or Avedon, which were great thirty years ago, they are now and they will be in thirty years. But I also realized that most of the photographs on display had been made specifically to get hanging on those walls. They were not a means to tell humanity, but an object conceived only to be exhibited and sold.
Are you an artist?
No, I’m a photographer.