Starting on Wednesday (Jul 17), Sesc Avenida Paulista, in downtown São Paulo, will feature the exhibit Gold – Minas de Ouro Serra Pelada, with still images by renowned photographer Sebastião Salgado. The exhibit is free of charge and is slated to end on November 3.
Fifty-six photographs will be displayed, some of which never before seen, taken by Salgado in the 1980s in Serra Pelada, southern Pará state, in the Brazilian Amazon. The region saw a hectic gold race at the time, which drew tens of thousands men who turned a group of mountains into an enormous crater.
The gold mine can be seen with men queuing up in endless lines uphill like ants. Salgado’s pictures are in black and white—one of his trademarks—and portrays men drenched in mud and sweat dragging long sacks with dirt and ore.
The dream of gold
“For a decade, the Serra evoked the long promised El Dorado. But today, the fiercest gold race Brazil has seen became a mere legend, which remains alive through some of the happy memories and so many painful regrets,” Salgado notes.
During the time he spent at the mine, Salgado heard stories about people who became rich overnight, and others who were only able to dream about building a new life. “Gold is an unpredictable lover,” he said.
“While some lucky prospectors left Serra Pelada with gold, and bought land and companies and never felt cheated on, others found gold and thought more riches awaited them. These lost everything they had managed to collect,” the photographer recounted.
Background and career
Sebastião Salgado’s work in Serra Pelada is part of his interest in major human dramas. He also went to numerous wars, documented the movement of refugees in several places across the world, and the struggle of the Landless Workers of Brazil.
His black and white photographs follow the school of pioneers like Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa. The internationally renowned Brazilian photographer stands out for his pictorial style, which accentuates the instant moment less than the plastic beauty of the composition and the lighting.