These photographs are culled from Sebastião Salgado’s projects "Migrations" and "The Children." In September 2000, at the opening of special exhibitions of his work at the United Nations (in conjunction with the Millennium Assembly), and at Aperture's Burden Gallery (to benefit Refugees International), Salgado spoke these words to those in attendance:
Heinrich Schliemann, Archaeologist and Photographer
D. F. Easton
Heinrich Schliemann is a towering figure in the history of archaeology, although an ambivalent one. Ambitious, intelligent, and resourceful, he made his mark with excavations at Troy in northwestern Turkey, and at Mycenae, Orchomenos, and Tiryns in Greece.
I was lucky to catch up with Giorgia Fiorio in Paris last November—she spends most of her time on the road, obsessively pursuing her subjects in order to create the epic visual narratives she has become famous for. Born in Turin in 1967, Fiorio is a wiry, rather glamorous gamine, who now lives in Paris.
There is a useful distinction to be drawn between photographers, whose end products are photographs, and what I have termed photographists—artists who incorporate photographs into works that have a more complex artistic identity.1 It is not at all necessary that photographists be photographers in their own right— they can cut photographs out of newspapers or magazines, and combine them in montages or collages or installations.
The first thing we see is a glistening red and mottled yellow ground, filling the screen. As the camera moves and begins to lift, we gradually recognize bloodstained sawdust on a slaughterhouse floor. Accelerating, we come to the bloody carcass of an ox, which begins to pull away, accompanied by the sound of chains on a creaking winch.
The idea of the camera, the portrait, somehow robbing its subject’s soul seems like an old-wives tale in these voyeuristic, media-saturated times. But, just as language functions (whether reductively or revealingly) to define and describe the world around us, the photograph often serves as the image we remember— better even than the essence of the subject itself.
In 1883, Joseph Pulitzer made this confession: "They call me the father of illustrated journalism. What folly! I never thought of any such thing. I had a small newspaper, which had been dead for years, and I was trying in every way to build up its circulation.
Approaching New York University’s Grey Art Gallery to see “Rudy Burckhardt and His Friends: New York Artists of the 1950s and ’60s,” I stop. Do I really care about these paintings, photos, films, writings? I find I’m thinking more about the man than about his work.
This is an age in which most people are conscious of the potential powers of photographic representation. Still, the question of how a photographer manages to gain access to the most intimate moments in the subject’s existence—moments of violence or sex or tenderness or discomfort—is often simultaneously obscured and implied.
Fantasy, of course, is at the heart of sexual imagery, although the content and boundaries of the fantasy are often unavailable to the uninitiated. In one image, which is dated “before 1959,” a nude male figure lunges head first down a flight of stairs while propping his genitals up with one hand.
I wouldn't ask any of my friends to do what I do myself. Except Ron Athey. I've bled for him in his performances, so he can do it for me. I've just done Ron as St. Sebastian. Anyway, I thought it was important, if I was going to document my community, to document myself within that community.
MARK GOODMAN: A KIND OF HISTORY, MILLERTON, NEW YORK 1971-1991
I didn't go to Millerton because I thought I’d spend a lifetime there. I stayed and kept going back because I wanted to be in a place long enough so I could willfully, constantly feed my hunger for photographing people, and where each of us recognized the other.
Born in 1925 in the town of Senigallia, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, Mario Giacomelli spent many years chronicling the essential life of humanity through the specifics of his close surroundings: Italian townsfolk and landscapes. Self-taught as a photographer, he focused on patterned paesaggi and scenes of local life, all in richest black and starkest white, and created extraordinary distillations of the universal into the particular.
ARTHUR C. DANTO is the art critic for The Nation. His book about Robert Mapplethorpe, Playing with the Edge, was published by the University of California Press in 1995; his essay of the same name won the ICP Infinity Prize for writing on photography in 1992.
Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are courtesy and copyright by the artists, all rights reserved: Cover, pp. 26-43 courtesy Contact Press Images; pp. 1-19 courtesy Contact Press Images; sponsors for Sebastião Salgado's "Migrations" exhibition at the United Nations were:
USA AUSTIN, TX Austin Museum of Art Graciela Iturbide: Images of the Spirit May 11-July 8, 2001 ATLANTA, GA High Museum of Art Contrasts and Connections: Photographs from the High Museum of Art Collection through May 5, 2001 CHICAGO, IL The Art Institute of Chicago Focus: Rineke Dijkstra through July 29, 2001