We can take a picture that communicates, one where we can see the problems and the people from around the world. We show the people of Bangladesh to others so they can understand them. I have tried to bring about better communication between people. I believe that humanitarian photography is like economics. Economy is a kind of sociology, as is documentary photography.
I very much like to work on long-term projects...There is time for the photographer and the people in front of the camera to understand each other. There is time to go to a place and understand what is happening there. ...When you spend more time on a project, you learn to understand your subjects. There comes a time when it is not you who is taking the pictures. Something special happens between the photographer and the people he is photographing. He realizes that they are giving the pictures to him.
What I want is the world to remember the problems and the people I photograph. What I want is to create a discussion about what is happening around the world and to provoke some debate with these pictures. Nothing more than this. I don't want people to look at them and appreciate the light and the palate of tones. I want them to look inside and see what the pictures represent, and the kind of people I photograph.
As long as there's journalism, there will be photojournalism. They're two halves of a whole. And although they certainly won't last forever, for the moment I don't see either one of them coming to an end. Roland Barthes, in his book Camera Lucida, stated that photography, rather than film or television, is the collective memory of the world. As I see it, he's right about this. Photography immortalize a moment, which then becomes a symbol, a reference. Photography is universal language; it doesn't need translation. Its collective memory is a mirror in which our society continually observes itself...
..I know this story very well because it is my story. I made the same migrations that a great mass of the world’s population is doing now. I was born on a farm in Brazil. And when I was five, I moved with my family to a small town, about 10,000 people. Then when I was 15, I went to a medium-sized town, about 120,000 people. And when I finished college, it was necessary for me to goto a big big town, to São Paolo, and in São Paolo I had some political problems and the time came to leave Brazil and I came to France. That means this story that I’m photographing is my story also. I am a migrant, too....
When I was just starting out, I met Cartier-Bresson. He wasn't young in age but, in his mind, he was the youngest person I'd ever met. He told me it was necessary to trust my instincts, be inside my work, and set aside my ego. In the end, my photography turned out very different to his, but I believe we were coming from the same place.
When you work fast, what you put in your pictures is what your brought with you—your own ideas and concepts. When you spend more time on a project, you learn to understand your subjects. There comes a time when it is not you who is taking the pictures. Something special happens between the photographer and the people he is photographing. He realizes that they are giving the pictures to him.
It is a great honor for me to be compared to Henri Cartier-Bresson...But I believe there is a very big difference in the way we put ourselves inside the stories we photograph. He always strove for the decisive moment as being the most important. I always work for a group of pictures, to tell a story. If you ask which picture in a story I like most, it is impossible for me to tell you this. I don't work for an individual picture. If I must select one individual picture for a client, it is very difficult for me.
...I work alone. Humans are incredible, because when you come alone, they will receive you, they accept you, they protect you, they give you all things that you need, and they teach you all things you must know. When you come with two persons or three persons, you have a group in front of them. They don't discuss with the new persons what is important to them...
We are one human race, and there must be understanding among all men. For those who look at the problems of today, my big hope is that they understand. That they understand that the population is quite big enough, that they must be informed that they must have economic development, that they must have social development, and must be integrated into all parts of the world.
You photograph here, you photograph there, you speak with people, you understand people, people understand you. Then, probably, you arrive at the same point as Cartier-Bresson, but from the inside of the parabola. And that is for me the integration of the photographer with the subject of his photograph... An image is your integration with the person that you photographed at the moment that you work so incredibly together, that your picture is not more than the relation you have with your subject.