Claire Yaffa: Leica Notebook, Thoughts of Photographers, Philosophers, Poets and Dreamers, Chapter 39

Claire Yaffa took her first photograph 49 years ago when her son was 18 months old and it was the beginning of her journey, first as a mother, then as a photographer. She has worked extensively for The New York Times and Associated Press. Her photographs have appeared in countless influential publications and have been exhibited at major venues in the US and around the world.

As a photographer, one of the most difficult subjects to photograph is another photographer. When I first began to photograph, I tried to meet photographers whose photographs I admired. It was not an easy task. They did not like to be photographed. I discovered, the more famous and talented they were, the more they were interested in letting me meet them, spending time with me and explaining the process of their art.

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Sebastião Salgado spent an entire afternoon talking with me about his many projects. A few of the contacts shown here are from our meeting. He was gracious, never asked me to leave. I had always admired his photography, but after seeing the beautiful film, “The Salt of The Earth” that was directed by Wim Wenders and his son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, I realized the magnitude and dedication he has made to his life’s work. The film presents the basic facts of Mr. Salgado’s life and his memories of them. His childhood was in Brazil, studying economics. He moved to France with his wife and business partner, Lelia Wanick, who edits his books and plans his exhibitions. Known as a social photographer photographing conflicts, famines, mass migrations and other catastrophes. In the mid-1990s, he covered the genocidal wars in Rwanda and Bosnia. It affected his health and he became ill mentally and physically. He moved to his family’s cattle ranch in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. In the film, it shows the efforts of Salgado and his wife to restore the Atlantic Forest and the Rio Doce watershed through a foundation they founded, the Instituto Terra. To date, they have planted over two million trees. This encouraged him to begin his nine-year project “Genesis.”

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When one views “The Salt of The Earth,” one see his dedication, determination, great focus on the world as being pristine and his passion to keep it that way. “We must preserve the awareness of the world.” For eight months, he walked and covered 32 destinations. Walking, he said he saw the energy of the earth and saw the beauty and places not yet spoiled by man’s human behavior. He wants to make people realize the necessity to preserve an awareness of our world. He describes photography as a kind of human phenomenon. “You become part of the pleasure, you know when you have captured your picture, and you grow with the phenomenon of the beauty which still exists on our planet.”

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Sebastião Salgado is only 71 years old and has traveled this world with his determination, his education, and heart. He is an extraordinary individual who has responded, because of his ability to use his camera, enabling us to understand his feelings and concerns of life and the planet which supports us. His compassion and emotions at the sorrow and wonder of life are presented in his beautiful, exquisite photographs. With the beauty of the images, we share with him our hopes for the future.

– Claire Yaffa

You can also see more of Claire’s work on her website, claireyaffa.com.

 

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