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Recent Acquisitions: Sebastião Salgado, Brasil (Hand, Serra Pelada), 1986

Hood Quarterly, spring 2003

In 1973, Sebastião Salgado (born 1944) abandoned a promising career as an economist to pursue photography. Like his colleague James Nachtwey, Salgado has dedicated his career to documenting the lives of suffering and survival led by the world’s refugee and migrant populations.

This recent acquisition, entitled Brasil (Hand, Serra Pelada), 1986, is part of Salgado’s six-year photographic survey of manual labor around the world, Workers, 1986–92. Of the unpaid miners in Serra Pelada, Brazil, Salgado writes, “Their lives were a hellish series of descents to the gully’s depths and ascents to the mine’s surface, a dizzying height above. On his back each man carried a sack of earth and the dream of gold.” The work is visually captivating, but first and foremost it is a record of the brute facts of existence in a world marked by gross inequities and a poignant struggle for existence. This is the first photograph by Salgado to enter the Hood’s collection.

This particular work of art was identified for acquisition by the Hood’s Fall 2002 Miniversity Class. Miniversity classes are non-credit courses offered college-wide on a broad range of topics from yoga to knitting. Each year, one of the Hood’s Miniversity offerings teaches how museums acquire art and culminates with the participants recommending a work of art for the museum to purchase. In Winter 2002, the students selected a photograph by O. Winston Link.

This fall’s course focused on Latino/Latina photography to complement the exhibition José Clemente Orozco in the United States, 1927–1934. Both of these works, on view this winter, represent significant additions to the Hood’s photographic collections, and their acquisitions support the museum’s commitment to represent students’ interest within the galleries.

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