Committed photojournalist, Salgado is one of the most outstanding and versatile of contemporary photographers. A humanist who conveys his feelings with powerful, beautiful photographs, he has revealed a world of human despair from the miserable conditions endured by Brazilian coal miners to African famine victims to oil well firefighters in Kuwaiti oil fields.
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. In 1974 he joined the Sygma agency, and then the Gamma agency (1975 1979). In 1979 he was invited to join Magnum. Two years later he was in the doorway of the Washington Hilton taking pictures when President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley.
His images of Latin American peasants from six different countries were compiled in the 1984 book Other Americas. His 1993 book Workers: An Archeology of the Industrial Age is an homage to manual labor. In 1997 he published Terra: Struggle of the Landless, about the hard life of Brazilian peasants.
Salgado, who lives in Paris, has won various awards, including the W. Eugene Smith Award in 1982 for his essay and series Ethiopian Famine. In 1985 he won the Oskar Barnack Award. He was named Photographic journalist of the Year by the International Center of Photography in 1986 and received the Hasselblad Award in 1989.
His work has been exhibited internationally at such venues as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Art, and the Corcoran Gallery. In 1993 he received the ultimate American cultural accolade, a feature in People magazine. His work has been published in magazines and newspapers worldwide.