American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
POETRY, ESSAYS, MYSTERIES, PHOTOGRAPHY, THEATER, KIDS' BOOKS
Sebastião Salgado and the Militant Photography of Work
Sebastião Salgado, Workers, with an introduction by Salgado, Eric Nepomuceno, Maria Thereza and Jose Solano Bastos, Aperture Foundation, New York, 1993, $100, 400 pp., 350 black and white duotone photographs
I became familiar with the great Portuguese photographer Sebastião Salgado's Workers only a few years ago. Once acquainted, I encountered Salgado's work quite often, in periodicals, books, and exhibitions. I was impressed by his remarkable ability to construct penetrating images that spoke to his sensitive awareness of graphic art as well as an intuitive understanding of his human subjects. Capturing spontaneous moments in a meaningful way is not an easy task. It takes years of knowledge in the use of physical equipment, in the ability to approach subjects, and most, importantly, in how to see in a telling and provocative way. Such a marriage is not readily found.
Salgado's subtitle describes this volume as "an archeological exploration of the activities that have defined labor from the Stone Age through the industrial age, to the present." When trying to choose an image for to acompany this article, it was almost impossible to select just one out of so many images that struck me as perfect in the depiction of the reality of workers around the world. So comprehensive is the scope of Salgado's work that I felt in awe of his tribute to the human condition, a tribute bestowing great dignity on the most isolated and neglected among us -- from famine-stricken refugees in the Sahel to the indigenous peoples of South America.
The image I chose for this article represents the universal reality of those who labor with their hands. The feeling is one of strength and hope. This image along with the 350 duotone photographs is "an homage to workers, a farewell to a world of manual labor that is slowly disappearing, and a tribute to those men and women who still work as they have for centuries" (jacket note quote by Peter Bradford and Danielle Whiteson).
From the endurance of the Brazilian gold miners to oil fire fighters extinguishing Kuwaiti wells, the often gritty, grainy images and landscapes Salgado lays out immerse you in the "present" of the moment while connecting you to a history of colonialist exploitation. Whether through its images or its captions, Workers presents its subjects on several interactive levels.
As a photographer, I aspire to these very goals. To capture the depth and truth of the human experience, to affirm our universal humanity, to honor and inspire people's struggle to better their world. I have documented individuals and communities who often against all odds, survive and strive -- in the United States, Africa, and in Latin America.
I often look at my work and wonder what is its impact? Can images change minds? Can photography influence the way people think and understand the human condition? Certainly photography provides a window into realities we could never witness and in that sense helps us form deeper opinions about verbal information that comes to us. Can we trust what our eyes see? With the digital age upon us, we often wonder -- Was the image manipulated? This is a major concern in the news gathering industry. Truth in reporting is paramount -- or all believability is lost.
Salgado has describe his work as "militant
photography" dedicated to "the best comprehension
of man." Workers renders the human condition
with honesty and respect, ultimately communicating a
message of endurance and hope. As an artist, historian,
and documenteur, Salgado is a passionate chronicler,
depicting the worker at the core of modern civilization.
For me he is a powerful standard-bearer and inspiration
to continue the search for truth in images.
Photographer Don West has documented
the life of the black community in Boston over the last
15 years, culminating in the exhibit and publication
"Portraits of Purpose," showing the leadership
of 50 individuals who have made a difference in the
quality of life of their city.