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Photographer Sebastião Salgado at 80: ‘They say I was an aesthete of misery’

The legendary photojournalist looks back on a life committed to documenting people and the planet, and explains why nature became his focus

‘I photographed the world,” says Sebastião Salgado, flicking through the archive in his Paris studio. Salgado, who turns 80 this week, has witnessed wars, revolutions, coups, humanitarian crises, and famine. He has also seen some of the most pristine places on the planet – locations and peoples untouched by the devastating fury of the modern world.

His body of work, an instantly recognisable combination of black-and-white composition and dramatic lighting, has been built up over decades, covering hundreds of assignments in 130 countries and his name stands in the photojournalist pantheon alongside figures such as Robert Capa, Eugene Smith, Margaret Bourke-White, Henri Cartier-Bresson, James Nachtwey and Steve McCurry.

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