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A Different Light


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This is the first full critical study of the work of the popular documentary photographer Sebastiao Salgado. Salgado was born in Brazil (part of the global south) but his work has been criticized for the way it aestheticizes his subaltern subjects. Nair describes the painstaking work on individual prints done by the artist and his wife, and sees the aesthetic surface as contributing to the documentary purpose of the photographs by bringing more viewers to the work. Nair explores all the stages of Salgado's work, including the recent more ecological subjects, showing its planetary commitments.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction. Photo-Trajectory 1
1. The Moving Lens: Abiding Concerns and Photographic Projects 49
2. Engaging Photography: Between the Aesthetic and the Documentary 119
3. Eye Witness: On Photography and Historiography 167
4. Just Regard: On Photography, Aesthetics, and Ethics 217
5. The Practice of Photography: Toward a Polity of the Planet 264
Notes 315
Bibliography 341
Index 351


"Through exhaustive research on Salgado's work, Nair raises critical questions on ethics, politics, history, photography, and aesthetics. Having published ten major books of photographs, Salgado is also the winner of numerous international photography awards; he actively participates with international charities, including UNICEF and the World Health Organization. Particularly poignant are the intimate conversations among Nair, Salgado, and his wife, Lelia, which add tremendous clarity to Salgado's worldview... Highly recommended for fans of Salgado's work and for those interested in photojournalism, documentary photography, and global humanitarian issues." - Shauna Frischkorn, Library Journal "An excellent study! Parvati Nair simultaneously places the work of Sebastiao Salgado within broader contexts and illuminates contemporary debates on aesthetics, ethics, and photo-documentary, with welcome emphasis on perspectives from the Global South. A must-read for all those concerned with photographs as visible evidence." Liz Wells, Plymouth University "A superb book on the most important photographer in the world today, A Different Light cuts a very wide swath: critical photojournalism, humanitarian documentation, political aesthetics, visual epistemology and historiography, representational theory, documentary ethics, the colonial gaze, the Frankfurt School, Latin America, Africa, the place of still photography in a rapidly moving world, ecology, art, profit, and concern. This is the book that the photography of Sebastiao Salgado deserves." John Mraz, author of Looking for Mexico: Modern Visual Culture and National Identity

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