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Sebastião Salgado Wins Peace Prize

On October 20, 2019, Sebastião Salgado became the first ever photographer to receive the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.

The beautiful ceremony saw some 700 guests— including German Ministers Christine Lambrecht and Monika Grütters, as well as Benedikt Taschen with Marlene and Benedikt Jr —welcomed by Peter Feldmann, the Lord Mayor of the City of Frankfurt am Main, at St. Paul’s Church.

Salgado was honored for “demanding social justice and peace with his photographs” as well as his commitment to nature and its preservation, not least shown by the “Instituto Terra”, a reforestation program founded by Salgado and his wife Lélia, which has orchestrated some 2.7 million trees being planted in the Brazilian rainforest so far. His photographic work has drawn attention to the inhumane working conditions in gold mines, the genocide in Rwanda, and the situation of displaced peoples. More recently, in his breathtaking book Genesis, he celebrates the beauty of our planet.

“Sebastião Salgado shows us the whole world that has been damaged by civilization, but also the world still untouched by it,” explained Heinrich Riethmüller, Chairman of the Börsenverein. Director Wim Wenders, who worked with Salgado on his film Salt of the Earth, paid tribute to the photographer’s work, saying: “There can be no peace without social justice and without work, there can be no peace without recognition of human dignity and without the end of unnecessary conditions of poverty and hunger, and there can be no peace without respecting the beauty and holiness of our earth.”

He was followed by Sebastião Salgado himself, who captivated every single person in the room with an extremely poignant speech that brought much of the audience to tears. “These men, women and children are among the most needy on the planet: masses of migrants and exiles, of cruelly exploited workers, victims not only of war and genocide, but also of famines, droughts, climate change and deforestation; all these innocent souls who are condemned to suffer, who are driven off their land by powerful and greedy men, who are casualties of mechanized farming, of the concentration of land ownership, of the urbanization of all societies, of the violence of an economic system controlled by the richest nations on earth. It is with these millions of people that I would like to share this prize. I don’t want it for myself; I wish it for them; I wish it with them.”

Above all, Salgado also thanked his wife and partner Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado. “Everything I have done was made possible by Lélia. It was Lélia who first introduced me to photography. It was through her energy and determination that a wonderful reforestation project in my home town of Aimorés, Instituto Terra, has become a magical reality. In every sense, it is our Genesis.” He ended, “Dear Lélia, this prize is as much yours as it is mine.” A day before the event, the TASCHEN booth at the Frankfurt Book Fair hosted the legendary photographer for a book signing, which saw hundreds of guests receive a personalized copy of his TASCHEN monographs.