24 July, 2021

An Epic Eye

One of the best photographers the world's seen, Sebastiao Salgado's leftist past inform his photo-sagas—war, famine or the deformed human body

Prashant Panjiar
An Epic Eye
Sebastiao Ribeiro Salgado's magnificent new obsession is chronicling the death of a fell disease. It's a grand narrative of hope, and it's turning out to be no different from his past epics. So what if the world's foremost photojournalist is working on a who and unicef-supported project on poliomyelitis? So what if the worst is over and in another four years polio will be history—there are less than 3,500 cases today around the world, down 99 per cent from 350,000 cases just 13 years ago? In scouring for images that will make up his new epic, Salgado is facing challenges and dangers which have always stalked him through his amazing three-decade-long career.

Most of the few remaining polio hot zones lie in the strife-ridden, war-ravaged Africa—five of the eight countries he's travelling to this year capturing polio victims, inoculators, health workers coping with and extinguishing the disease are in the benighted continent. So in Somalia, machine-gun toting "technical-support" clan militia men stood guard in who and UN tees even as Salgado photographed an inoculation...

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