Thursday, February 23, 2006

Sebastiao Salgado: Concerned Photography

Sebastiao Salgado's work embodies, perhaps more than that of any other contemporary artist, a social conscience. Salgado is one of the truly great living photographers -- not just because he takes aesthetically pleasing pictures but because he has chosen to document humanity as a mobile, stratified, working, conflicting, suffering, regenerative entity with a talent for both self-destruction and survival. The names of his projects indicate the nature of his work: Man in Distress, Other Americas, An Uncertain Grace, Workers, Migrations. "What I want in my pictures is not that they'll look like art objects," he says. "They are journalist pictures. All my pictures. No exceptions."

They are, however, art objects. Sombre, insightful, desolate, rooted poetry in black and white. Such as this picture of a Rwandan refugee camp in Tanzania.

Or this one from Bosnia.

In the introduction to Migrations, he wrote, "More than ever, I feel that the human race is one. There are differences of colour, language, culture and opportunities, but people's feelings and reactions are alike. People flee wars to escape death, they migrate to improve their fortunes, they build new lives in foreign lands, they adapt to extreme hardship..." Salgado's camera has documented deprivation, displacement and labour like no other. He does not revel in the incisive flashes of wit of a Cartier-Bresson -- instead, he stresses thematic unity and the humanitarian angle. He can shock and disturb (see, for example, his photographs of famine in the Sahel), but he is never didactic or sentimental.

Here are some more of his pictures, from Brazil, China, Sudan, Ecuador, India and elsewhere.

Online exhibitions of Sebastiao Salgado's photographs may be found at:

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Stretch Less Down Under

In my neverending quest for universal brotherhood, world peace and free beer for all, I have come across this remarkable product that "prevents and even cures unsightly stretch marks", whose "natural, herbal formula goes to work instantly on problem spots, revealing your healthy, glowing beauty". According to the advertiser,
The key to our extraordinary formula is EMU oil. This is the same natural ingredient used for centuries by Australian aborigines in the scorching, harsh climate of the Australian Outback. We combine it with the healing, moisturizing effects of Aloe, avocado oil, squalene and vitamins A, E and B – all pure ingredients with the transforming properties that give you smooth, supple skin, resistant to the ravages of pregnancy and the extreme stretching of weight gain.
Incredible, but true. Whoever knew the emus had it in them? Or, for that matter, the aborigines? David Beckham may have hung up his "kangaroo boots" but there's fight in the ol' outback yet!

This, by the way, is an emu:

Ultra StretchAway is 100% guaranteed to work!
Try it for yourself! You and your partner will delight in the results.
Indeed. Perhaps I should relocate to Australia and make my millions in koala-sweat or cassowary-guano. Ever since the Gold Rush got rid of half the swag and the dot.coms took care of the other half, California has been feeling a little, uh, empty?

And his ghost may be heard as it sings in the billabong,
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?"