Cast of Thousands, Serra Pelada, Brazil
Gelatin silver print. 28.6 x 43.1 cm (39.6 x 50.9 cm). Photographer's blind stamp in the margin lower left. Signed, dated and inscribed 'Brazil' in pencil on the verso.
Lélia Wanick Salgado (ed.), Sebastião Salgado. Workers, Praha 2001, ill. p. 70
His highly acclaimed series on the Brazilian gold mine 'Serra Pelada' from 1986 helped Sebastião Salgado, originally educated as an economist, to achieve his international breakthrough. Widely published, it documents the inhuman working conditions of the day labourers in the mines. “Formigas” - ants: is what the unskilled workers were called, and indeed, those are the associations evoked by the image - taken by the photographer from a distance and from an elevated standpoint - of the countless gold prospectors on steep ladders, unremittingly dragging their sacks out of the mud to the rim of the crater. „Innumerable men, rendered alike by a shared abject poverty, become almost indistinguishable from the mud that covers their bodies: humans reduced to mere usage, without value, without name or distinction”, the cultural historian Parvati Nair writes this about the persons depicted here (Parvati Nair, A Different Light: The Photography of Sebastião Salgado, Durham i.a. 2011, p. 72). At the time when the shot was taken, approximately 50,000 people worked in the mine, and Salgado's photographs greatly contributed to its closure.