Having once forecast doom for photography in the face of the smartphone, Sebastiao Salgado has changed his mind.
One of the most lauded documentary photographers of recent decades, 73-year-old Salgado told Reuters: “I don’t think it is endangered. I thought so at some point, but I was wrong and I take that back. I think photography, now more than ever, has a long future ahead.”
The Brazilian is still dismissive of the billions of smartphones which now take the overwhelming majority of the world’s pictures.
But he believes that documentary photographers are cutting through that with memorable pictures that will survive.
“What people do with their telephones is not photography, it’s images,” he said in Bangkok for an exhibition of his work. “Photography is a tangible thing, you grab it, you look at it. It is something akin to memory.”
Salagdo’s black and white, pin-sharp images have a grandeur that only enhances his often brutal subject matter of people caught in poverty and conflict or threatened environments.
Among his most famous photographs are those of swarming and muddy gold miners in Serra Pelada in Brazil.
Salgado shifted to digital photography from film in 2008, but his prints are still created using the old gelatin silver process for the range and subtlety of its tones.
Industry estimates for the total number of photos that will be taken in 2017 range upwards from a trillion.
At least 85 percent of those pictures will be taken on one of the world’s more than 2 billion smartphones with only some 10 percent taken on a dedicated digital camera.