Sebastião Salgado, one of the most renowned and important photographers of our day, has been honoured with the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade Association. This is the first time that the award, launched in 1950, has been given to a photographer.
The statutes of the Peace Prize declare that: “The foundation serves peace, humanity and understanding between people.” The award honours personalities from the fields of art, literature and science. This year the foundation’s council chose the Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, because his convincing life’s work has shown him to be a committed champion for humanity and the protection of the environment. By honouring Salgado, the foundation is distinguishing “an artist whose photographs promote social justice and peace, and add urgency to the worldwide debate on the protection of nature and the climate. In addition, with his Instituto Terra, Salgado has created an entity that contributes directly to the restoration of biodiversity and the ecosystem”.
Salgado’s touching motifs are always produced in black and white. His images reflect deeply humane feelings towards people, such as workers and migrants displaced through war or climatic catastrophes, who battle to survive under the most extreme circumstances. His photo book Gold reveals truth with bizarre beauty. First published in 1986 and more recently republished in an extended version, Gold shows the horrific reality for thousands of miners. Time and again, Salgado manages to bring not only the living conditions of otherwise overlooked groups of people to the attention of viewers, but also the dangers posed to the planet’s environment.
Salgado’s photo books and exhibitions – without forgetting the Oscar-nominated, documentary film about his life and work, The Salt of the Earth, directed by his son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and the German photographer and director, Wim Wenders – have reached millions. He has received a number of international awards; among such recognitions, Salgado is the only photographer to be honoured twice with the Leica Oskar Barnack Award (1985 and 1992). The German Book Trade’s Peace Prize, which comes with prize money amounting to 25,000 euros, further demonstrates appreciation and respect for Salgado’s social commitment and his photographic performance. (Ulrich Rüter)