Photojournalist Sebastiao Salgado documents the struggles of the destitute in many parts of the world. His ability to record these victims through sympathetic eyes — giving them an unheard of dignity — makes his images significant and often exquisite.
Through Nov. 9, Utahns have the opportunity to witness the humanity of Salgado's work in "Terra: Photographs by Sebastiao Salgado," on display in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts on the University of Utah campus.
Salgado's exhibit documents the struggle of rural, landless Brazilians fighting to obtain the land to which they are constitutionally entitled, yet officially denied.
Born in Brazil in 1944, Salgado fled the country in 1969 after a military coup. Unable to return for many years, he settled in Paris, where he completed his studies in economics and went to work for a grower's advocacy group. It was on the job in Africa, when he borrowed a camera to assist him in his work, that Salgado discovered his love of photography and it changed his life.
All the images in the show are good; some are great. "Peasant, Parambu, Cear" (toned gelatin silver print, 1983) is a portrait of a very old woman with a face rutted with creases and eyes uncharacteristically bright.
"School of a Settlement in Landless, Sergipe" (toned gelatin silver print, 1996) offers viewers an image of a young girl at her school desk. Her hand grips a new BIC pen, and yet her eyes threaten anger. Why?
In "Settling on the Giacometi Plantation, Paran" (toned silver gelatin print, 1996), the landless sprawl in squalor under trees alive with sunlight, as if an angel were descending to bless the people. It is absolutely ethereal.
"Children Play with Animal Bones, Cear" (toned silver gelatin print, 1983) illustrates the resiliency and creativity of children, regardless of their affliction: a young boy lines up bone fragments on a floor in front of an opened door. A goat standing outside the door stares back at the viewer.
While Salgado's photographs contain all the necessary elements of a successful work of art — composition, atmosphere, detail and tonal depth — viewers might be so taken with a photo's message that art will be the furthest thing from their mind.
If you go ���
What: "Terra: Photographs by Sebastiao Salgado"
Where: Utah Museum of Fine Arts, 410 Campus Center Drive
When: Through Nov. 9
Time: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
How much: Free
Web site: www.utah.edu/umfa