Work from a famed Cork photographer and Sebastião Salgado feature in today’s auction of images in aid of the Survival charity, writes Richard Fitzpatrick.
THERE are two images by celebrated photographer Sebastião Salgado in an online auction running at the moment to raise funds for Survival International, the global organisation which supports tribal peoples’ rights. His photograph of gold miners toiling like worker ants in a Brazilian pit still startles almost 30 years after it first stopped the world in its tracks. It could have been a picture taken in 1886 rather than 1986.
“That photo made Salgado famous back in the ’80s,” says Ghislain Pascal, the show’s curator. “His series of the gold miners in Brazil put him on the map. It turned him into an overnight sensation. There was sheer surprise when the photograph was published that this kind of gold mining was still going on in the twentieth century.
“Also, his images have an amazing tonality... this tone, this colour to them. You can tell a Salgado image instantly, which is always a sign of a great photographer. He always shoots in black and white. There’s always a grainy element to them. They’re very beautiful. Sometimes, they’re showing hardship, but they still somehow manage to capture some kind of beauty.”
The story behind the gold mine at Serra Pelada deep in Brazil’s Amazon jungle has a little bit of magic and many horrors. The gold mine sprung into life when a local found a little chunk of gold, weighing about six grams, while bathing his child in an out-of-the-way river.
A gold strike ensued over the next five years that harvested more gold than the annual output of Australia’s goldmines combined and all manner of social ills. The nearby town, for example, became a haven for “stores and whores”. Thousands of girls under 16 years of age sold their bodies for sex to the miners for little grains of gold. Every month, some 60 to 80 murders reportedly went unsolved.
Salgado’s other picture in the auction is from 1995. It is an aerial shot of the platform at Churchgate train station in Bombay, India. The commuters look like fish spawn in a river. “With his picture,” says Pascal, “there is a lot of movement which gives it a sense of purpose. It is quite arresting. You look at it and you get sucked into the image. You almost feel like you’re there in the station.”
Pascal owns The Little Black Gallery in London, where several of the photographers who have donated prints to the auction have ties. These include the Oscar-nominated filmmaker and photographer, Mike Figgis who supplies an iconic shot of Kate Moss’s legs going on forever as she descends a staircase for an Agent Provocateur campaign in 2007.
Kate Moss Descending, by Mike Figgis
Pascal used to work as the agent for the celebrated Cork-born photographer, Bob Carlos Clarke’s, too, and he manages his estate.
The Carlos Clarke image provided is from his last series, Love Dolls Never Die, which premiered in London two years before his death in 2006. It is typically playful, as its title suggests: Adult Females Attack Without Provocation.
“The photographs Bob is known for are obviously incredibly sexy,” says Pascal.
“Because he wasn’t a fashion photographer there is no reference to fashion or clothes. The images are generally timeless. If you look at a fashion photograph or if someone takes a photograph for a magazine, you can date it very quickly by the clothes they are wearing.
“With Bob’s, they are either wearing not very many clothes or they’re wearing things that are difficult to date. He captures them in a timeless way.”
John Kenny’s Amongst the Camels in Essakane
Carlos Clarke’s images were heavily stylised. “They’re not captured in the second. He didn’t wait to be commissioned for work. He spent his entire life creating his own images, which were then used by advertising companies and so on. He didn’t wait for somebody else’s vision. He was the visionary.”
This image, Adult Females Attack Without Provocation, was part of a series he did.
“It was his first digital exhibition. The shark fin on the model’s back has been digitally put on. She was wearing a rubber suit. There was a shark fin, and it was on her back, but it had to be digitised to make it look like it is part of her. Everything he had done until then was taken on film; there was nothing enhanced about them. Bob may have taken days, months or years creating this image.”
Pascal won’t reveal which is his favourite image from the auction, which also includes pictures from John Kenny and Yann Arthus- Bertrand, who is known for his Earth From Above collection, the book of which has sold more than 3m copies.
“I bid for one myself,” he says. “I couldn’t possibly say which one it is because somebody might outbid me.”
The Survival Benefit Photo Auction runs until the end of today. For more information, or to place bids, visit: www.paddle8.com/auction/survival
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