One of the world’s foremost photographers, Salgado began work on Exodus in 1993. By the time the project was completed in 1999, Salgado had visited forty countries on every continent to document the flight of refugees and the movement of people who were abandoning the countryside for work in the cities. “Humanity is on the move,” Salgado explained. “It is a disturbing story because few people uproot themselves by choice. Most are compelled to become migrants, refugees, or exiles by forces beyond their control, by poverty, repression, or war.”
A massive undertaking, the presentation and acceptance of Salgado’s work was unheralded in the world of documentary photography. Eight sets of the exhibition were shown worldwide simultaneously, including more than 3,000 sets of posters with sixty images per set. More than 220,000 copies of the two books that accompanied the exhibit, Migrations and The Children, were published in eight countries. It is estimated that more three million people viewed Exodus.
In response to Salgado’s hope that everyone “can pause and reflect on the human condition at the turn of the millennium” and his desire to “create a new regimen of coexistence,” the Center for Documentary Expression and Art created programming around Exodus that reached out to students of all ages and their teachers as well as the general public. CDEA’s programming included the following events:
Crossroads: Community Dialogues—Six public presentations on the interconnections between faith, art, and human rights. Celebrating the Human Rights of Children—A series of five public readings by poets and politicians geared toward elementary aged children. Personal Journey—A project that provided hands-on, arts-making activities for young people in which they used copies of Exodus images to construct collages. Human Rights Fair—A bazaar, hosted by the CDEA and the National Conference for Community and Justice, featuring Salt Lake City organizations that carried out human rights or humanitarian projects. An Evening of Conscience—An event at the University of Utah’s 1800-seat Kingsbury Hall that featured presentations on the subject of conscience by Mexican poet Homero Aridjis, Utah writer Terry Tempest Williams, and photographer Sebastião Salgado.
Sebastião Salgado, a native of Brazil, discovered photography while working as an economist for the World Bank in London. He moved to Paris in early 1973 to pursue photography full-time.
First as a photographer for the Sygma and Gamma agencies, and then as a member of the prestigious Magnum Photos, Salgado’s assignments have carried him around the world. He documented the plight of the underprivileged, producing essays on cultures such as the Indians and peasants of Latin America, for which he worked with the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders. Salgado left Magnum Photos in 1994 to form Amazonas Images with his wife, Lelia Deluiz Wanick, to support the production of his work.
The large scope of “Exodus” is typical of Salgado’s tireless and exhaustive approach to documentary photography. From 1986 to 1992, for example, he traveled to 23 countries to create Workers, a series of photographs that visualized the end of the age of large- scale industrial manual labor. These and other projects have been published in numerous magazines and books worldwide. Salgado is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and an honorary member of the Academy of and Sciences in the United States. He has received numerous prizes, including several Honorary Doctorates and other accolades for his photographic work.