Gold is as much a tribute to the human struggle for a dignified existence as it is a challenge to the status quo: are there truly no better ways to sustainably distribute Earth's resources than brutal capitalism? Whether those resources be people, viewed as a raw material comprising infinitely significant, untapped potential, or our planet's natural world.
"For a decade, it evoked the long-promised El Dorado, but today Brazil's wildest gold rush is merely the stuff of legend, kept alive by a few happy memories, many pained regrets – and photographs," Salgado says.
On the walls of the exhibition area, we can see men of different ages, classes and skin colours climbing on flimsy ladders while carrying heavy, 40-kilo bags. It is easy to believe that they are climbing on each other mistakenly, but no. Instead, this is a tableau of well-oiled, anarchically organised collaboration devised by the gold prospectors themselves. Each plot, measuring three by two metres, was claimed by a man while another financed the actual gold prospecting and any profit was shared equally between them. The heavy, physical work, mining the rock and carrying away the ore, was performed by hired hands who dreamed of being the one who would get to share in a bag filled with gold.
"I soon learned that what at first glance looked like a disorderly movement of men was, in fact, a highly sophisticated system, in which every one of the 52 000 men working there knew the role he had chosen to play," Salgado explains.
Gold is a classic photographic series, with the legendary use of a technique whose foremost quality is its ability to evoke our emotions and provoke thought. “Bringing the works of the grand old man of documentary photography, who recently celebrated his 76th birthday, to Estonia is a real honour. Salgado works are a treasure in recent photography history that hopefully bring storytelling and history fans to the exhibition,” says Maarja Loorents, Exhibitions Lead at Fotografiska Tallinn.