Last week I was talking to some friends and one of them told me the photographer Sebastião Salgado would be doing a presentation of his work here in my city. He is quite a controversial artist, I`ll give him that. While most of my friends like his work and “connect” with it, I feel very critical of it, and my criticism led me to a much bigger enquiry than the B&W work of Sebastião Salgado.
Photography is, without a doubt, the carrier of some kind of message. Barthes paradox even states that “photograph is a message deprived of a code”. The discussion about the existence of a “photographic” language is the object of tons of knowledge in semiotics and very convincing arguments on both sides. Next cocktail party you want to convince someone of your intellectuality, please use the word “semiotics”, record it, and email me! :o)
For now, I`m satisfied in knowing there is a message embedded in every photograph. Now, back to S.S work. If you google his pictures, you`ll probably conclude that his message is crystal clear: a kind of dry b&w, with a very high contrast and clarity, boosting the subjects of the picture. It turns your stomach the first time you see it. First time I looked at it, I was stunned. He was definitely able to transmit the feeling of poverty and harshness. I could literally feel it for the first four or five pictures. Then came the sixth and seventh pictures and all I could see was over processed photography.
Yup. I was numb to it.
Put too much salt on your food and soon it will be your new normal (Salgado, in Portuguese is “salty”, but really, no pun intended). And here, on the third paragraph we get to the main question: is Sebastião Salgado`s way of expressing his art a good and clear way of sending a message, or is it overdoing as the viewer loses the ability to connect with his work after a little while?
When we add the reality of photography to this equation (tons of pictures of the same thing, and of everything, taken every day) the answer comes even harder. Is punching the viewer on the face a good way of differentiation? Or is it a way of leveling out with the “slider happy” noob?
While I`m still not able to answer, I find the way into finding the answer a very rich opportunity of learning new ways to photograph. For the moment I`ll stick with my personal opinion that making the same pictures over and over again and sending the same message over and over again is best for fixed surveillance cameras than for an artist, but who am I to judge, right?
See it bigger on 500px.