The celebrated Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado has an exhibit at the UC Berkeley Art Museum entitled Migrations: Humanity in Transition. “Migrations is a visual chronicle of the global flux of populations at the turn of the millennium. For a period of seven years, across forty countries in Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Asia, photographer Sebastião Salgado worked among migrants, refugees, and exiles, people who have ruptured their ties with land and tradition in a flight toward other destinies.”
Salgado was educated as an economist in Brazil, eventually earning a doctorate. His opposition to the right-wing military regime in Brazil forced he and his wife to relocate in Paris, where they have lived ever since. His wife Leila purchased their first camera while in Paris. On a business trip to Rwanda, he realized that the pictures he took gave him more pleasure than his economic report. Shortly thereafter at the age of 27, he quit his plans to be an economist to become a photographer.
He works with a bevy of Leica R6’s and rangefinders and exclusively in black and white (Kodak Tri-X and T-MAX). Though his prints are incredibly grainy, they have a sense of reality that I don’t always feel from my own images. There’s a difference between merely taking pretty pictures and making photographs that I have not yet discovered. Many of us worry incessantly about our equipment and the technical aspects of photography that we lose sight of the transcendental properties of the printed image. My migration to that frame of mind is just beginning.
The Children: Refugees and Migrants, which was also on display at the Berkeley Art Museum. Rae and I found the two exhibits to be an interesting mix of photojournalist and posed, carefully planned images. The huge portraits of the children had the most impact for me. He says in an article that “with the book of children I wanted to show how emotionally vulnerable they are in a crisis situation, while at the same time highlighting how much incredible spirit and energy they have.”
I later learned that his second child Rodrigo was born with Downs Syndrome. “This child changed my life. When he came 21 years ago I was not prepared to have a Down’s Syndrome child. For the first two or three years of his life it was not easy, nor for my wife. After that you get over things. There is always a solution. The solution is that there is no solution. You must live with the problem and love the child and they become part of your life and our children gave us so much that our life is. Now we see that it was a gift to our life to have a Down’s Syndrome child.”
An interesting sidenote in Salgado’s life was that he was the only photographer to get still images of the Reagan assassination attempt in 1981.
Petrice’s Chinese New Year Party
After the Salgado exhibit, Rae and I went south of campus to Petrice’s, where she was holding a Chinese New Year party. Her kitchen was small, but man, was she pumping out dish after delectable dish from there! I didn’t eat that much before arriving at Petrice’s so I hung out by the food for much of the evening, while taking a few event pictures.
Here’s where Adam goes into his technical discussion about his cameras. Didn’t I just say that I need to avoid doing that??? All but one of the party photos was taken at ISO1600 with the EOS-1D using firmware version 1.3 and the 2/3 custom tone curve. Using this tone curve means I had to add +2/3 exposure compensation while shooting, which meant I had an effective ISO of 1000. The results were pretty good, though, with minimal banding present in the mid to shadow regions. It’s still there, as were these two HUGE pieces of dust and hair on my sensor (present in every image I shot yesterday unfortunately).
If Canon can fix the banding, be it through firmware or through a hardware recall (ala the fix for the HNL problem), I don’t think I’d be worrying about the camera as much as I do sometimes. Photographers need a tool that they can trust in the most demanding situations. Salgado’s photographs have grain (major grain in some images), but it’s random, not clumped into horizontal bands. This makes his images look real, as opposed to artificial, in my opinion.
Enough blabbering about technical aspects!