Overworked and underpaid – Dramatic photos of workers

Sebastião Salgado - Greater Burhan Oil Field, Kuwait, 1991, Chemical spray protects firefighter
Sebastião Salgado – Greater Burhan Oil Field, Kuwait, 1991
Chemical spray protects firefighter

The Story in Sebastiao Salgado’s workers

Sebastiao Salgado’s workers is an exceptional photography series and book thanks to its detail in men at work in the lowest levels and harshest conditions. His work shows solidarity with the world’s most poor societies. He seeks to recognize and appreciate the isolated peasants and refugees who represent a large portion of humankind. Salgado focuses on oppressed workers of South America comprising men and women who are overworked and underpaid. The book is a journey into activities that define the real labor force responsible for changing the world with major constructions. It also depicts the transformation from stone-age to the present industrialized levels.

Sebastião Salgado - Greater Burhan Oil Field, Kuwait, 1991
Sebastião Salgado – Greater Burhan Oil Field, Kuwait, 1991

Sebastião Salgado - Greater Burhan Oil Field, Kuwait, 1991, Workers place a new wellhead in an oil well that had been damaged by Iraqi explosives
Sebastião Salgado – Greater Burhan Oil Field, Kuwait, 1991
Workers place a new wellhead in an oil well that had been damaged by Iraqi explosives

Sebastião Salgado - Greater Burhan Oil Field, Kuwait, 1991
Sebastião Salgado – Greater Burhan Oil Field, Kuwait, 1991

Workers – An archaeology of the industrial age

The title summarizes the content perfectly. Salgado examines people responsible for turning the great economic machine at the basic ground level. You will rarely be seeing much of the elite. Their absence creates the impression the photojournalist either dismisses their role in building nations or ignores their efforts. It is easy to understand his choice of focus. Boardroom meetings and paper-filled offices do not make unusual photographic subjects compared to literal manual work. Physical labor provides close and relatable views of the spectrum. You will be taken through an intimate journey of hardworking individuals; From men in sulfur ores with bare hands to the workers in Brazil’s largest and most dangerous mine. The stories told are barely clean or organized. Most of the photos involve dirty, oily, textured sweaty events.

The book is divided into different categories of industries: Mining, oil, agriculture, food, and construction. The visual information in the book reveals the unwavering spirit of the poor workers without a better option for survival. It is a sad poem, which would communicate ancient methods of production and labor, workers use it to pass a message of hope and endurance.

This book has pieced together photos collected within a period of 6 years, between 1986 and 1992. The duotone images elaborate the experience regarding travel that this author has experienced. It comes with extended captions for historical and geographical facts about the images. This is a story of resilience and labor.

Sebastião Salgado - Mata tea plantation worker, Rwanda
Sebastião Salgado – Mata tea plantation worker, Rwanda

Sebastião Salgado - Miners, La cantine, Anshan, China, 1957
Sebastião Salgado – Miners, La cantine, Anshan, China, 1957

Review

Salgado’s work is usually in black and white. He doesn’t seem to pay attention to the role of color in telling stories. The best improvement to expect from them is the slight bronzing during printing. Although the photos may not be strikingly attractive, they retain their feel and depth. Even after viewing the originals, you will still associate the bronzed ones with more reality and authenticity.

Salgado used the best quality and technology in printing the photos. They are excellent thanks to the depth of the black color and rich tonal variations. For wider subjects, there are foldout pages. Workers is an impressive collection that catches the attention of everyone. Even those people who are not keen on photojournalism, the story told in this book is irresistible to follow by most people.

Sebastiao’s images of the world’s underprivileged stand in tribute to the state of mortals. The pictures in his work express dignity bestowed on the neglected and isolated people. These are especially the indigenous people who live in South America, to the refugees that had been stricken by famine in the Sahel. The work exposes and upholds a persistent spirit of working men and women striving to survive against the odds around them.

Sebastião Salgado - Rajasthan canal works, India, 1989
Sebastião Salgado – Rajasthan canal works, India, 1989

Sebastião Salgado - Rajasthan canal works, India, 1989
Sebastião Salgado – Rajasthan canal works, India, 1989

Sebastião Salgado - Rajasthan canal works, India, 1989
Sebastião Salgado – Rajasthan canal works, India, 1989

Sebastião Salgado - Rajasthan, India, 1990
Sebastião Salgado – Rajasthan, India, 1990

Conclusion

Salgado uses Workers to depict an important yet neglected part of the world. The hardworking people who are responsible for building civilizations but do not get credit or recognition for it. He is keen in providing unforgettable images of what life is at the grassroots level. The physical part is in deep contrast to the event-less office work where the participants get the highest credit.

Hopefully, it will teach most people a lesson about this sometimes forgotten part of society. Its tonal inspiration and detailed picture-stories make it a recommendable book to all generations. The pictures contain enough detail to tell many stories within the main story. There are, therefore, many themes that emerge from the photo collection.

Sebastião Salgado - Woman sorting coffee out in Karnataka, India, 2003
Sebastião Salgado – Woman sorting coffee out in Karnataka, India, 2003

Sebastião Salgado - Workers, tea plantation, Rwanda, 1991
Sebastião Salgado – Workers, tea plantation, Rwanda, 1991

Sebastião Salgado - Brazilian farm workers
Sebastião Salgado – Brazilian farm workers

About Sebastião Salgado

Sebastio Salgado was born in Brazil and began his passion as a photojournalist while in school. Before founding his agency (the Amazon’s Images) he worked for a long time at Magnum as well as other firms. His fame and role in society earned him the position as a UNICEF ambassador. He has worked with WHO and other international NGOs around the globe to improve the lives of poor, unprivileged masses.

He seems to prefer megaprojects that take a long time to complete as opposed to short projects. One of the longest projects is Genesis which begun in 2004 and was completed in 2013. He is experienced in combining perfect presentation and framing. The photos are creatively and dynamically produced. It is easy to notice the strong lighting and emotional aspect associated with his precision. The images in all his books provoke an emotional reaction in the viewer.

Sebastião Salgado - Coal industry workers, India, 1994
Sebastião Salgado – Coal industry workers, India, 1994

Sebastião Salgado - Coal Mine, Dhanbad, Bihar State, India, 1989
Sebastião Salgado – Coal Mine, Dhanbad, Bihar State, India, 1989

Sebastião Salgado - Cuba, cane cutter
Sebastião Salgado – Cuba, cane cutter

Book review (video)

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