Human dignity is inviolable

27 Dec

Mentioning RSF – Reporters Sans Frontieres here reminded me of one of my favourite photographers. RSF used to publish annual photoessays for the 3rd of May, World Press Freedom Day, under the title 100 Fotos für die Pressefreiheit (100 Photos For Press Freedom). The 1996-publication is comprised of signatory black-&-white images by Brazilian master Sebastiao Salgado. Its title is Die Würde des Menschen (The Dignity of Man (as in Human)).


Chapter 1, Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000/C 364/01) states that human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected. I came across a somewhat provocative rendering of this by Austrian artist Wilfried Gerstel. In his 2011 installation Gunshot traces in paradise Gerstel uses an air pistol to shoot the iconic phrase into moist clay tablets. It won the Grand Prix UNICUM Award at the Unicum 2012 – II. International Ceramic Triennial in Slovenia. Do have a look at the catalogue for some inspiration!


I’d be hard-pushed to choose my favourites among the Salgado images but let me share one or two with you anyway. High on the list is the next image. It is a dispute between Serra Pelada gold mine workers and military police in Brazil, 1986. The human face of work at Serra Pelada was used in the opening scenes of the visually stunning film Powaqqatsi (a Hopi Indian word meaning Life in Transformation), the second of the Quatsi film trilogy.


And, of course, an obligatory African picture too, title of a book published in 2011 by Taschen. The number 1 address online for Sebastiao Salgado is the agency Amazonas Images, created by Lelia Wanick Salgado. There’s also a lovely series called Changing the world with children, which is part of the UNICEF Global Movement for Children.


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