Uncertain Grace

Salgado, Sebastiao. An Uncertain Grace. New York: Aperture Foundation, 1990.

Reason read: Natalie Merchant

Sebastiao Salgado is a fascinating artist. His photographs are works of art. And yet. Yet, there is so much humanity and culture within each frame that they move beyond artistic interpretation into a realm of awareness and education. In a word, they teach. The lessons are hard to digest and sometimes there is a vomiting of denial and revolt. For those that dare not look away there is inspiration and heartache.

In Migrations Salgado emphasized the light. In Uncertain Grace the subliminal emphasis is on the eyes of his subjects. Through these eyes one sees hope, pain, redemption and death. Supporting the imagery are thoughtful essays by Eduardo Galeano and Fred Ritchin.


Salgado, Sebastiao. Migrations: Humanity in Transition. New York: Aperture, 2000.

Confessional: this is not on any challenge list. Less than a month ago I swore I would no longer stray from “the List” but here I am, reviewing something leisure.
Here’s why: it’s a photojournalistic account of humanity on the move. More pictures than words. I was inspired by an interview given by Natalie Merchant to look up Sebastiao Salgado’s work and I don’t regret it.I picked up two different books, the first being Migrations.

Migrations first hits you as a stark, sad and seemingly hopeless photo essay of human suffering brought on by starvation, natural disaster, religious persecution, and outright war. Scratching the surface, it is the story of people fleeing one situation straight into the arms of another. The faces are in turmoil. Fear casts a shadow over impoverished communities across Latin America, Asia and Africa. But, dear reader look closer. Amid the sick, the dying, the afraid. Look with open eyes. There is a glimmer of hope. See the sly shy smile of a child, the defiant stare of a proud mother, the hopeful grin of a gritty farmer. Salgado wants you to peer into these faces and see yourself looking back with strength and optimism. He stresses we are all one human race. Underneath it all, we all want the same things. I’m reminded of Shel Silverstein’s poem, “No Difference” for he said the very same thing.

Favorite line, “But while information is the most obvious bridge between cause and effect, it is not the only one” (p 10).