Photographers' Blog

From paradise to inferno

Novo Progresso, Brazil

By Nacho Doce

The Amazon? Nobody can truly understand what it is without spending months or years immersed in it, to see the forest and witness the destruction. Spectacular and heartrending at the same time, it is the focus of great controversy that affects the world as much as it does Brazil.

It took us five trips spread over the past year to achieve a better understanding, but what I have recorded is just a brief moment in this immensity of rainforest and deforested land, with the forces working to annihilate what’s left.

GALLERY: INSIDE THE AMAZON

It was time to show the crime being committed against the Amazon.

The only way to begin was to make contacts. I met environmentalist Juan Doblas while visiting a hydroelectric dam on the Tapajós River. Through Juan I met a sociologist named Cirino, and through Cirino I met a farmer named Derivaldo. Cirino and Derivaldo are not their real names; they asked to remain anonymous because both live under constant threat. The word is that there is a $20,000 bounty for Derivaldo’s head, offered by Amazon loggers who want him dead for protecting the forest.

If $20,000 sounds like a lot for an enemy’s head, just compare it to the value of the dearest tree in the rainforest today – the ipê or lapacho. Loggers will pay a “ribeirinho”, or forest dweller, $75 to find and cut an average ipê. But once cut, dragged to a sawmill, and sawn into boards, that single tree will be sold, before even leaving the forest, for upwards of $50,000 to be exported overseas.

Derivaldo picked me up from a hostel one afternoon on a motorbike.

“Are you the one?” he asked.

“I am. You know what I need?” I answered.

“Yes. Jump on.”

We rode along the Trans-Amazonian Highway for about 20 kms (12 miles), and stopped at a bar. He ordered something called “3 Religiosas” (3 religious).

Village of joy

By Ueslei Marcelino

Deep in the Brazilian heartland, where the upper reaches of the Amazon Basin dissolve into the central plateau,  I had the opportunity last week to spend a few days in the village of joy.

What I dubbed the village of joy is the home of the Yawalapiti tribe. One day last week, a group of us were escorted into the Xingu National Park by members of the Darcy Ribeiro Foundation and the Cavaleiro de Jorge cultural center, and arrived at the circular Yawalapiti village under an enormous full moon.

The mood was one of celebration. The Yawalapiti, one of the 14 tribes living inside the Xingu National Park, were preparing a new “quarup,” a ritual held over several days to honor in death a person of great importance to them. In its original form, the quarup was a funeral ritual intended to bring the dead back to life. Today, it is a celebration of life, death and rebirth. From the very oldest to the very youngest, all the members of the Yawalapiti tribe participate in the preparations.

This one is worth a thousand words

Hats off to Luis Vasconcelos for this powerful picture.

The caption says, “An indigenous woman holds her child while trying to resist the advance of Amazonas state policemen who were expelling the woman and some 200 other members of the Landless Movement from a privately-owned tract of land on the outskirts of Manaus, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon March 11, 2008. The landless peasants tried in vain to resist the eviction with bows and arrows against police using tear gas and trained dogs. REUTERS/Luiz Vasconcelos-A Critica/AE (BRAZIL)”.

Images of heavy-handed oppression really don’t come much better than this – defenceless, screaming woman clutching naked child is shoved and beaten by faceless, armoured authority.Belter

The symbols are reinforced by the strong composition. The woman and her child appear all the more vulnerable as the only elements of humanity and colour against the advancing wall of shields and boots.Such a potent image leaves very little room for any doubt. In such circumstances do we need to know the details of the dispute to have any doubts that what we are witnessing is wrong?

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