History of Photography

History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary






1   Nicephore Niepce. View from the Study Window, 1827

2   Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre. Boulevard du Temple, 1838

3   Eugene Durieu/Eugene Delacroix. Nude from Behind, ca. 1853

4   Duchenne de Boulogne. Contractions musculaires, 1856

5   Auguste Rosalie Bisson. The Ascent of Mont Blanc, 1862

6   Nadar. Sarah Bernhardt, ca. 1864

7   Francois Aubert. Emperor Maximilian's Shirt, 1867

8   Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi. Dead Communards, 1871

9   Maurice Guibert. Toulouse-Lautrec in His Studio, ca. 1894

10 Max Priester/Willy Wilcke. Bismarck on his Deathbed, 1898

11 Heinrich Zille. The Wood Gatherers, 1898

12 Alfred Stieglitz. The Steerage, 1907

13 Lewis Hine. Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill, 1908

14 August Sander. Young Farmers, 1914

15 Paul Strand. Blind Woman, 1916

16 Man Ray. Noire et blanche, 1926

17 Andre Kertesz. Meudon, 1928

18 Robert Capa. Spanish Loyalist, 1936

19 Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936

20 Horst P. Horst. Mainbocher Corset, 1939

21 Henri Cartier-Bresson. Germany, 1945

22 Richard Petersen. View from the Dresden City Hall Tower, 1945

23 Robert Doisneau. The Kiss in Front of City Hall, 1950

24 Dennis Stock. James Dean on Times Square, 1955

25 Bert Stern. Marilyn's Last Sitting, 1962

26 Gerard Malanga. Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground, 1966

27 Helmut Newton. They're Coming!, 1981

28 Sandy Skoglund. Revenge of the Goldfish, 1981

29 Robert Mapplethorpe. Lisa Lyon, 1982

30 Joel-Peter Witkin. Un Santo Oscuro, 1987

31 Sebastiao Salgado. Kuwait, 1991


see also:

Salgano Sebastiao

Chapter 31



Sebastiao Salgado



Apocalypse in Oil

Saddam Hussein's troops have been vanquished, but Kuwait is in flames: the Iraqis have set approximately 900 oil wells on fire. Now international specialists are trying to extinguish the fire. Sebastiao Salgado observed them - labor heroes in an age of automation.


Like every well-made play, this drama too has three acts, and we find ourselves at the beginning of the third. It is April 1991, and no one knows how the act will end. The man who staged it left the ending open - with an option for a Gotterdammerung. Dictators seem to like binding their personal finale together with a universal apocalypse. Saddam Hussein remains, as before, in power. Somewhere beneath Baghdad, he's holed up in a bunker built by German or British or American specialists. And this is not the only cynical aspect of a conflict that will go down in the annals of the 1990s as the Gulf War, and that will cost an estimated hundred to hundred and fifty thousand lives before it's over. Much of Iraq has been destroyed. The newest technical weapons - cluster bombs, smart bombs, and cruise missiles - have thrown the biblical cradle of Middle Eastern culture back to medieval conditions. But beyond this, the war has changed little, if we take Saddam's attack on Kuwait on 2 August 1990 as its starting point. It has certainly brought about no changes in the map, nor in the tendency of human beings to turn to violence in settling disputes, nor even in the balance of power in the region. Saddam has been weakened, but he's not yet been banished to oblivion, as America's president George Bush would gladly see, without knowing precisely whom he would set up in Saddam's place. And the Kuwaiti rulers are also back on their old thrones as if nothing had happened. Apart from which, the balance stands at 138 dead and 66 listed missing on the side of the Allied forces - along with a series of new experiences. For example: in the psychology of conducting a war. Or in the way the military deals with the media. Or in the question how one gets the upper hand over almost 1,ooo burning oil wells.

On 28 February, after exactly 210 days of combat, the Gulf War comes to an end - at least the military part of the drama. Saddam's troops have more or less withdrawn from Kuwait, but not before fulfilling the threat the Iraqi dictator had made from the beginning, namely, "to set the whole region, including the oil fields, on fire." Before the war, Kuwait had the world's highest average income; its oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, overflowed, creating prosperity for the approximately one million Kuwaitis. Now the liquid gold was in flames: the advancing Allied troops were greeted by a single vast inferno. The German news magazine Der Spiegel was moved to comparison with the Bible to describe the extent of the catastrophe: the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, so it seemed, could now be assigned a date, namely March-April 1991. Everything was on fire. At least nine hundred of the once wealth-producing oil wells - pessimists spoke of up to a thousand torches in the desert sands -were burning up to a height of nearly a thousand feet. A cloud of soot and smoke darkened the heavens, causing a decline in temperatures throughout the Gulf region. In Kashmir, nearly 1,700 miles away, black snow was falling; in the deserts and savannas of East Africa, dirty rain. A natural catastrophe of unimagined dimensions seemed to be approaching. Scientists prognosticated abnormal weather patterns and questioned whether India would still receive its critical monsoon rains. If not, the result would be hundreds of thousands of deaths by famine on the sub-continent. Health risks were discussed, including possible delayed reactions after people had breathed in the poisonous soot particles. By the middle of the year, according to the estimates, forty million tons of raw oil had been burned, releasing two hundred and fifty thousand tons of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, along with thirty millions tons of car-bon dioxide. And no end of the catastrophe was in sight. Asked by the German magazine Stern in early 1991 whether all of the Kuwaiti oil fires could be extinguished within a half year, the American fire expert Paul Neal Adair, nicknamed 'Red,' had a simple answer: "Nonsense." Cautious estimates reckoned two to three years would be needed. Even more skeptical was Ali Qabudi of the Kuwait Oil Company at the end of March, who spoke of a worst-case scenario of ten years before all the fires were extinguished.

Sebastiao Salgado


Additional problems in extinguishing the fires


What made the situation so difficult was not merely the number of fires. The area had been studded with mines, which greatly restricted the mobility of the fire-fighting troops who had been sent to the region. Further-more, the oil flowed from the Kuwaiti wells under natural pressure. The force which had once made it easy to obtain the raw material now caused additional problems in extinguishing the fires. In addition, there was the problem of the proximity of the burning wells to each other: some were less than a mile apart. This concentration increased the temperatures to infernal levels, causing the desert sand to melt to glass. Red Adair joked that they had not even brought a thermometer along with them, because if they knew how hot it really was, no one would stay there to work. Texas-born Red Adair is already a legend among fire-fighters, "the most famous fireman in the world" (Stern). His specialty is blowing out burning shafts with a carefully placed load of dynamite, but Kuwait seems to be more than even an expert can handle. In the end, other teams from the USA and Canada, Romania, Italy, France, China, Hungary, Iran, and Russia also arrive to help solve the problem - attracted naturally by the impressive rewards that are being offered. And they try everything - every conceivable idea or plan - for time is money. Three million barrels - that is, ten per cent of the world's daily oil consumption - is going up in flames every day; which in turn means a forty-three billion dollar loss in two years for the Kuwait oil industry. "Big job, big money," as Red Adair succinctly phrases it. In other words: no matter how much it costs, the work of his team will not be too expensive for the country. After all, as heand his co-workers realize - and only for this reason are they willing to face these hellish temperatures - every one of them will return home a millionaire. That is, those who return home at all - for, as the Spiegel emphasizes, "the work is fraught with mortal danger."


Sebastiao Salgado
Firefighters at Work
Sabotages Oil Wells in Kuwait


An inferno of oil and mud, heat and gas


A man is taking a break. Possibly waiting for supplies. As reported by the western media, there's not enough of anything here. Not enough water for extinguishing and cooling - instead, it must be pumped for miles through pipelines from the sea. Not enough specialized equipment and machines, nor welding gear and bore heads. Red Adair speaks of a Mickey Mouse job, a remark which sounds like a bad joke. But he doesn't mean it comically. The issue is survival: for the firefighters on the job, for the country, for the region. There's nothing funny about it. And if we think we see something like a smile on the face of the man in the picture, then it arises more likely from complete exhaustion than from any sort of amusement. The worker is clearly at the end of his strength. Kaput. Dreaming of nothing as he stares into space - minutes of regeneration amid an inferno of oil and mud, heat and gas, soot and stench. He is covered from head to toe in slippery oil. Anyone who has worked on an automobile will wonder how he will ever get himself clean again. But it's even worse, for he stands under this shower of oil every day. The observer's response to such a filthy layer of oil might be disgust. But here the opposite is the case. What we are looking at is an anonymous labor hero - no ordinary human being, but an icon: not a mere 'hand', but a monument, cast in bronze for eternity. With the passion of an adherent of liberation theology Sebastiao Salgado is a specialist in icons. Whatever he photographs becomes a formula for pathos. His pictures - always in black-and-white -are well-composed, suggestive, direct, and believable in their depiction of the world's misery. Salgado is a master at making the frightening into something beautiful, and as a result is certainly the most admired international photographer today. In terms of his influence on present-day photojournalism - his function as a role model - one can designate him justly as the most important camera artist of the times - a kind of Cartier-Bresson of the late twentieth century. But whereas Cartier approached his work with the knife-sharp calculation of the Constructivists, Salgado pursues the emotions. Compared to what one finds in the sensational press, his pictures do not look spectacular; rather, their effect lies in the manner in which they lift up an event. Every one of his photographs thus becomes something special: "Their pathos," says the Zeit author Peter Sager, "their elegiac gesture derives from the subject itself, but also from the way it is presented. Mother-and-child groups, scenes of passion, masses of people caught up in a great movement - such pictures narrate biblical stories, and Salgado quotes them with the passion of a Marxist-oriented adherent of liberation theology." Salgado sees himself as a documentary photographer, and he can celebrate his success not only in the illustrated press throughout the world,

but also in the realm of galleries and museums - a rather unique and much admired triumph in the world of photography. It is sometimes said that he aestheticizes suffering, that he exploits the misery of others for the sake of his art. But one thing is certain. There are few who have gotten as close as he, and with such an alert and interested eye, to misery. Salgado, as the writer Marcio Souza points out, has brought a completely new element to photography, one which is perhaps traceable to his Brazilian origins: namely, the complete absence of a bad con-science in relation to poverty, suffering, and social injustice. This does not mean, however, that Salgado feels no sympathy for what he sees. What distinguishes him from others is his attitude toward those he photo-graphs. As oil engineer Dave Wilson puts it: "It's kind of an aggressive act to take someone's picture. Somehow or other, he melts all that away." Salgado was born in 1944 in southwestern Brazil, the only boy in a family of eight children. He studied in Sao Paulo and Paris, and seemed to be headed for a career with the World Bank. But then, almost overnight, he changed his mind. Inspired by the engagement of photographers such as Lewis Hine and Dorothea Lange, Salgado took up the camera and set out for Africa to document the famine in the desert regions of the Sahel. That Salgado was the photographer who caught the attempted assassination of Reagan in 1981 seems today to be almost a mistake, for Salgado -the global player with a touch of Marx - is primarily interested in the Third World. At the core of his engagement stand the peoples of Latin America, Asia, and Africa, or the International Union of Manual Workers, about whom he has been working on a major cycle since 1980, calling his project on the dignity of labor simply Workers. According to Salgado, he is not necessarily directing criticism at a certain development, but rather trying to "portray the disappearance of the community of laborers." This is not his first excursion into the Near East. At the end of the 1980s, he had accompanied a troop of Iraqi military actors at the front during the war between Iraq and Iran. Western media had actually been denied access to the war, but on occasion a Brazilian passport can have its advantages.

Sebastiao Salgado


On average twelve rolls of film per day

Sebastiao Salgado
 New York, 1993

Here, in the midst of the burning oil fields, Salgado is of course not the only reporter. Stephane Compoint is present, and will eventually receive a photography prize for his work. Also the Magnum photographer Bruno Barbey is on the scene, as well as the photographers Steve McCurry (National Geographic) and Peter Menzel (Stern). What distinguishes Sal-ado from the others, though, is that he photographs in black-and-white. Equipped with three Leicas and 28 mm, 35 mm, and 60 mm lenses, he shoots on average twelve rolls per day. In Kuwait, he made approximately seven thousand exposures, from which six per roll are processed as work prints. On average he presents fifty photographs to magazines, who then make their selections. Salgado's report with the working title "Oil Wells" appeared for the first time in the New York Times Magazine on 9 June 1991 under the title "The Eye of the Photojournalist." The Spiegel published several samples of his work in issue 24 of the same year (10 June). In the World Press Contest, Salgado's work secured him the Oskar Barnack Prize. And the Kuwait cycle is also represented in his thematically-oriented book Workers (1993): our picture occurs as a full-page print on page 340.

At the beginning of November 1991, against all expectations, the last fire in Kuwait was extinguished. Red Adair and his workers, the gang from Boots &. Coots, Wild Well Control, and Safety Boss have returned to their various homes. In the meantime, the catastrophe has become history, and as such, is (almost) forgotten. What still remains are the photographs by Sebastiao Salgado: icons that transcend time, made not for the daily press, but for the collective pictorial memory. Salgado's pictures are a visualized Bible which extol the core of all that we find human. This is why his pictures are understood - and treasured - around the world.


Sebastiao Salgado

Sebastiao Salgado (born February 8, 1944 in Aimorés, Minas Gerais, Brazil) is a Brazilian documentary photographer and photojournalist.
After a somewhat itinerant childhood, Salgado initially trained as an economist, earning a master’s degree in economics from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. He began work as an economist for the International Coffee Organization, often traveling to Africa on missions for the World Bank, when he first started seriously taking photographs. He chose to abandon a career as an economist and switched to photography in 1973, working initially on news assignments before veering more towards documentary-type work. Salgado initially worked with the Paris based agency Gamma, but in 1979 he joined the international cooperative of photographers Magnum Photos. He left Magnum in 1994 and formed his own agency, Amazonas Images, in Paris to represent his work. He is particularly noted for his documentary photography of workers in less developed nations. Longtime gallery director Hal Gould considers Salgado to be the most important photographer of the early 21st century, and gave him his first show in the United States.
Salgado works on long term, self assigned projects many of which have been published as books: The Other Americas, Sahel, Workers, and Migrations. The latter two are mammoth collections with hundreds of images each from all around the world. His most famous pictures are of a gold mine in Brazil called Serra Pelada. He is presently working on a project called Genesis photographing the landscape, flora and fauna of places on earth that have not been taken over by man.
Most recently, Salgado has displayed in September and October 2007 his pictures of Coffee workers from India, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Brazil at the Brazilian Embassy in London. The aim of the project was to raise public awareness of the origins of the popular drink.


San Juan, Chimborazo
Ecuador, 1979


A community above Chimborazo
Ecuador, 1982


Day of the Dead in San Vicente Nautec
Ecuador, 1982


Wearing sheepskin to protect from cold and humidity
Ecuador, 1982


Refugees in the Korem camp
Ethiopia, 1984


Children's ward in the Korem refugee camp
Ethiopia, 1984


Refugee from Gondan
Mali, 1985


Mali, 1985


Transporting bags of dirt in the Serra Pelada gold mine
Brazil, 1986


Dispute between Serra Pelada gold mine workers and military police
Brazil, 1986


Going up the Serra Pelada mine
Brazil, 1986


Full view of the Serra Pelada gold mine
Brazil, 1986


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