GOLD: Sebastião Salgado
I am delighted to present here a selection of works for sale from the legendary series on the Serra Pelada gold mines in Brazil by Sebastião Salgado. This series holds a special place in my heart. I still treasure the recently re-found original program and price-list from one the first major exhibitions of the images at the London Festival Hall in the early nineties. Visiting this exhibition was a life-changing, light-bulb, moment and the one single event which made me decide to follow a career as a photography dealer and later to open my own gallery in 1994. The incredible density of the images and their rich metallic tones have always fascinated me. It feels as though a photographer has somehow penetrated into the pages of Dante with a camera and come back with photographic record of the poet’s vision, or as by some miracle of time travel, a photographic record might somehow exist of some ancient biblical scene. It is a huge pleasure for me thus to share with you this small selection of images from this extraordinary assignment and to celebrate the re-publication of these images in Taschen’s sumptuous new editions. Both the prints and books may be ordered from the gallery. Please ask any of our staff for details.
– Ben Burdett, Gallery Director
“What is it about a dull yellow metal that drives men to abandon their homes, sell their belongings and cross a continent in order to risk life, limbs and sanity for a dream?” – Sebastião Salgado
When Sebastião Salgado was finally authorised to visit Serra Pelada in September 1986, having been blocked for six years by Brazil’s military authorities, he was ill-prepared to take in the extraordinary spectacle that awaited him on this remote hilltop on the edge of the Amazon rainforest. Before him opened a vast hole, some 200 meters wide and deep, teeming with tens of thousands of barely-clothed men.
Half of them carried sacks weighing up to 40 kilograms up wooden ladders, the others leaping down muddy slopes back into the cavernous maw. Their bodies and faces were the colour of ochre, stained by the iron ore in the earth they had excavated.
After gold was discovered in one of its streams in 1979, Serra Pelada evoked the long-promised El Dorado as the world’s largest open-air gold mine, employing some 50,000 diggers in appalling conditions. Today, Brazil’s wildest gold rush is merely the stuff of legend, kept alive by a few happy memories, many pained regrets—and Sebastião Salgado’s photographs.
Colour dominated the glossy pages of magazines when Salgado shot these images. Black and white was a risky path, but the Serra Pelada portfolio would mark a return to the grace of monochrome photography, following a tradition whose masters, from Edward Weston and Brassaï to Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson, had defined the early and mid-20th century. When Salgado’s images reached The New York Times Magazine, something extraordinary happened: there was complete silence. “In my entire career at The Times,” recalled photo editor Peter Howe, “I never saw editors react to any set of pictures as they did to Serra Pelada.”
This signed and limited Collector’s Edition is the first monograph gathering the astonishing portfolio in full. In grand-scale, museum-quality reproductions, the images are interlaid with transparent paper and printed with cutting-edge High Definition Skia Photography technology. The result is nothing short of breathtaking, like an exhibition in book form.
Collector’s Edition of 1,000 copies (No. 101–1,100), each numbered and signed by Sebastião Salgado.
GOLD photobook: £50