Constellation Cafe Books : Workers by Sebastião Salgado

If there is one photographer who knows how to document the working man, its Salgado. Brilliant and stunning words don’t suffice the emotion I feel when I look at his work, it leaves me speechless. I suppose it would be wrong of me to just say he’s a fantastic photographer for he’s a humanist first. His every images speaks of the hardship which a worker faces, emotionally, physically with such a grandeur which is impossible to imagine. And today I introduce you to one of my favorite, and possibly his most exhibited work, “Workers”.

The cover for Workers. The original version is about 5,000 Rs. If you’re lucky you can find it for 800 on the street.

I was first introduced to Salgado via another great photojournalist “Dilip Banerjee” (he’s a little secretive about his work, hence no website to link you to). I don’t suppose I could even comprehend the profound impact of those images the first time I laid my hands on this book (Aperture, New York, 1993. 400 pp., 350 duotone illustrations, 9¾x13″). As it lies in your lap, you can feel its weight, 400 pages of beautiful deep black and white pictures bound in hardcover. The paper used is thick and the printing, fantastic. There are two versions of the book, one printed for Asia (which is a little cheaper) and one American / European version (which I suppose has a better print quality). When I look through the book, the weight makes me fully aware that this is not a easy book to look through. Maybe a part of the physical effort of these uncountable laborers is transferred into the book and its very real.

Just noticed that my copy is printed in Bombay 🙂
Almost all images are shot in 35mm, filled with tonality and beautiful grain

One look at the images and you can be sure its not just a curious viewpoint of the photographer. Salgado was educated as an economist and its evident that he’s fully aware of the situation, braced for the impact before he even starts taking a picture. Another website reveals A trained economist with advanced degrees in the field, he first became interested in photography while touring Africa as an economic advisor in 1970. In 1973 he quit his job to travel to Africa with his wife to document famine there.

Fishermen in Italy, from Workers states “Divided into six categories–“Agriculture,” “Food,” “Mining,” “Industry,” “Oil” and “Construction”–the book unearths layers of visual information to reveal the ceaseless human activity at the core of modern civilization”

The book explores images from all parts of the world. Coffee farms in India & Africa, mines in South America to ship builders in Soviet Union. Salgado’s work above all brings forward the crude reality of capitalism and origins of consumerism. In 1994 he left Magnum to create his own agency. Also since the 90’s his wife and him have been working on preservation of a small part of the Atlantic forest in Brazil.

Salgado’s book is a testament to humility, hard work and the penance of a worker. And then its also a documentation of the abuse and exploitation of man over his brothers and nature as a whole. Its a book which every photojournalist must read and have, to look at it over and over again.


3 thoughts on “Constellation Cafe Books : Workers by Sebastião Salgado

  1. My all-time favorite post so far. Salgado is searing. And I found this line particularly insightful: “Maybe a part of the physical effort of these uncountable laborers is transferred into the book and its very real.”

  2. Salgado, did not only make documents of fact but added this palpable humanity in his photographs. He shows that they are as human as other people who live comfortable lives and this comparison went into the small little white book that comes with this book. The introduction given by him in the book is a winner.

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