Salgado is the journalistic photographer that to me symbolizes the art of journalistic photography. His images are everything a photograph can be. It isn't just one aspect of the image - it is everything. The concept, the story, the content, the light, the framing, the moment, the people. When I grow up I want to make images like Salgado. Journalistic images, like a photojournalist but I also want them to be fantastically beautiful art. I want them to be good journalism and I want them to be good art.
If you make photographs and this guys images do not speak to you and say - "you suck" get better. Here is your wake up call. Oh they speak to everyone in other ways as well but deep down you know you suck when you see this guy's stuff. You may be okay - you may even be acceptable at wrapping your mediocre images in artifice to distract people but… As a photographer you suck. If you don't think you need to get better go see a Salgado exhibit.
Your first reaction will be to forget you are a photographer and these are photographs - you will be transported to another plane where none of that stuff matters. After you leave you will be inspired to get better. A lot better. If you think you are good at making images now - go to an exhibit.
Sort of reminds me of a story about Eric Clapton - He cried and swore to give up guitar playing after hearing Hendrix for the first time. He got it together and got better.
Ps. If you think you need a better camera this should be your answer. If you think the biggest issue in your images is that god damn noise when you shoot at 6400 - again this is your answer to how important all that bullshit is.