Sebastião Salgado: “Paradise exists: it is the Amazon”

“For me, the Amazon is the last frontier, a mysterious universe where the power of nature can be felt like nowhere else on Earth. Here, there is a forest that stretches to infinity and contains a tenth of all existing plant and animal species. It is the world’s largest natural laboratory,” writes Sebastião Salgado in the foreword to his new book ‘Amazonia’, which has just been published by Taschen.

For six years, Salgado traveled through the Brazilian Amazon and photographed the unparalleled beauty of the region: the forest, the rivers, the mountains and its inhabitants, an irreplaceable treasure of humanity.
Salgado visited dozens of indigenous tribes living in communities scattered throughout the largest rainforest on the planet. He documented the daily life of the Yanomami, the Asháninka, the Yawanawás, the Suruwahás, the Zo’és, the Kuikuros, the Waurás, the Kamayurás, the Korubos, the Marubos, the Awás and the Macuxis: their close family ties, how they hunt and fish, how they prepare and share meals, their marvelous talent for face and body painting, the importance of their shamans, their dances and rituals.
“In the Amazon jungle, there are around 114 groups that have never been contacted, that are the prehistory of humanity, that still live in isolation. And there are other groups that have been contacted, but live in a very isolated way; I worked with some of these groups that have already been contacted. It is really an encounter with our past, it is a privilege; the prehistory of humanity exists within the Amazon rainforest. We are ourselves, it is Homo sapiens at its beginning”, explains Salgado in an interview with journalist Sonia Sierra in Mexico’s El Universal.

The Brazilian photographer explains in the interview how his book came about:

“I did not contact any group that has not had contact; I did not want to, I had no desire to approach them and it is also forbidden to approach them. I contacted groups with which the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), from Brazil, had contacts. I worked with them, trying not to let my photography interfere in their lives; arriving with a camera was no surprise for any of the groups I met”.

Salgado spares no criticism of former President Bolsorano, whose government has proved disastrous for the Amazon:

“I have been invited to a trip by FUNAI that was going in the direction of a never-contacted group, not to contact, but to make a verification and delimitation of their territory. FUNAI sends missions for vestiges of these groups, they delimit to later make their recognition as the territory of this group and so that no one penetrates more. This was before Bolsonaro’s government; Bolsonaro’s government does not respect anything, it is a government of an attempt to violate the Amazonian spaces, of the tribes, of invasion of the territories, Bolsonaro’s government is the most reactionary and terrible that you can imagine in relation to the indigenous issue and the protection of all minorities”.

It is not in vain that Sebastião Salgado dedicates this book to the indigenous peoples of Brazil: “I wish, with all my heart, with all my energy, with all the passion in me, that in 50 years this book will not be a memory of a lost world. The Amazon must survive.

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Sebastião Salgado, ‘Amazonia’, Taschen.

”El paraíso existe: es la Amazonia”, El Universal, mayo de 2021.

‘El Amazonas, hacedor de vida, desata la pandemia’, Plantaforma, 27 de julio de 2020.

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