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Photography

A Mammoth New Book Takes an Immersive and Intimate Journey Through the Brazilian Amazon

May 25, 2021

Grace Ebert

The rain is so intense in Serra do Divisor National Park that it looks like an atomic mushroom cloud. State of Acre, 2016. All images © Sebastião Salgado, courtesy of Taschen, shared with permission

Photographer Sebastião Salgado spent six years immersed in the Brazilian Amazon as he documented the world’s largest tropical rainforest in black-and-white. From wide, aerial shots framing the vegetation populating the landscape to sincere portraits of Indigenous peoples living throughout the region, Salgado’s wide-ranging photographs are a revealing and intimate study of the area today.

Titled Amazônia, a 528-page tome from Taschen compiles these images, which in the absence of color, are attentive to naturally occurring contrasts in light and texture. They explore the unique environment and cultural milieu Salgado experienced during his travels as he visited multiple small communities—the tribes include the Yanomami, the Asháninka, the Yawanawá, the Suruwahá, the Zo’é, the Kuikuro, the Waurá, the Kamayurá, the Korubo, the Marubo, the Awá, and the Macuxi—to create a visual record of their traditions and ways of life. “For me, it is the last frontier, a mysterious universe of its own, where the immense power of nature can be felt as nowhere else on Earth,” the Brazilian photographer said. “Here is a forest stretching to infinity that contains one-tenth of all living plant and animal species, the world’s largest single natural laboratory.”

Pre-order a copy on Bookshop, and keep an eye on Taschen’s site for a forthcoming art edition that’s packaged with a signed print. You also can explore an archive of Salgado’s photographs capturing moments around the globe from Botswana and Mali to Guatemala and Vietnam on Artsy.

 

An igapó, a type of forest frequently flooded by river water, with palms and other emerging trees. In the center of the photo, a tree that’s trunk is covered with water: an aldina (Aldina latifolia). At right, a jauari palm tree (Astrocaryum jauari). Anavilhanas archipelago, Anavilhanas National Park, Lower Rio Negro. State of Amazonas, 2019.

Left: Yara Asháninka, the eldest daughter of Wewito Piyãko and Auzelina Asháninka. The small paint designs on her face indicate that a girl is not yet engaged. Kampa do Rio Amônea Indigenous Territory, state of Acre, 2016. Right: Luísa, daughter of Moisés Piyãko Asháninka, paints herself in the mirror. Kampa do Rio Amônea Indigenous Territory, state of Acre, 2016.

The Maiá River in Pico da Neblina National Park, in the São Gabriel da Cachoeira area. Yanomami Indigenous Territory. State of Amazonas, 2018.

Miró (Viná) Yawanawá making feather adornments, one of the arts a beginner must learn to master. Rio Gregório Indigenous Territory, state of Acre, 2016.

The Raposa–Serra do Sol Indigenous Territory occupies two ecologically distinct areas: fields in the south and densely forested mountains in the north. Its main landmark is Mount Roraima, seen in the background, that’s name is associated with the mythological hero Makunaima. This hero inspired Brazilian author Mario de Andrade’s classic novel Macunaíma. There are an estimated 140 Macuxi villages. Cotingo River Falls. State of Roraima, 2018.

 

 



Art History

New Photos from the ‘Sistine Chapel of the Ancients’ Reveal Details About Prehistoric Amazonian Life—Like a Fondness for Bungee Jumping

December 4, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © José Iriarte, shared with permission

Who knew people have been flinging themselves into open air since ancient times? Earlier this week, we reported on a massive collection of prehistoric art deep in the Colombian Amazon, and new photographs of the findings reveal early humans bungee jumping just like modern adventurers.

Spanning nearly eight miles, the paintings date back about 12,500 years when people first arrived on the continent. Thanks to José Iriarte—who is a professor of archaeology at Exeter University and an expert on the Amazon and pre-Columbian history—we’re able to share up-close images of the terracotta-colored renderings. Scroll down to see a range of extinct animals, oversized armadillos and sloths, and group ceremonies that make up the 100,000-plus individual paintings, which will be part of a documentary titled Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon airing this month.

Update: This article originally framed the prehistoric art as a discovery, which was inaccurate considering Colombians and Indigenous peoples have known about and studied the area for decades. Patricio von Hildebrand, Thomas van der Hammen, and Carlos Castaño-Uribe have made significant contributions, in addition to researchers at the National University of Colombia and the University of Antioquia. We regret the error and erasure.

 

 

 



Art History

'Sistine Chapel of the Ancients': A Remote Area of the Amazon Boasts Tens of Thousands of Ice-Age Paintings

December 2, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images via Marie-Claire Thomas/Wild Blue Media/Channel 4

New photographs reveal an enormous collection of prehistoric art that spreads across a nearly eight-mile-long cliff within the Amazon rainforest. Now dubbed as the “Sistine Chapel of the ancients,” tens of thousands of paintings depict humans and animals like sloths, horses, and the now-extinct palaeolama and mastodon. The latter creatures haven’t occupied regions in South America for almost 12,000 years, which has provided the British-Colombian archaeology team with a timeline for the artworks’ origins.

The collection has been known to Colombians and Indigenous peoples for decades and now will be presented as part of a Channel 4 documentary titled Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon, which airs this month. Archaeologist Ella Al-Shamahi, who is leading the television series, told The Guardian that the site, which is located in the Serranía de la Lindosa, required a two-hour drive from San José del Guaviare and an additional four-hour trek on foot to reach. “When we entered Farc territory, it was exactly as a few of us have been screaming about for a long time,” Al-Shamahi said. “Exploration is not over. Scientific discovery is not over but the big discoveries now are going to be found in places that are disputed or hostile,” noting that Colombia has been ravaged by civil war for decades.

Because of the breadth of the paintings—some are so high on the cliff that they only can be studied with drones—these researchers believe they will take generations to study. So far, though, they’ve found traces of ochre pigments, in addition to renderings of hallucinogenic plants and depictions of people who appear to be bungee jumping.

Update: This article originally framed the prehistoric art as a discovery, which was inaccurate considering Colombians and Indigenous peoples have known about and studied the area for decades. Patricio von Hildebrand, Thomas van der Hammen, and Carlos Castaño-Uribe have made significant contributions, in addition to researchers at the National University of Colombia and the University of Antioquia. We regret the error and erasure.

 

 

 



Animation Art

Digital Sculptures Visualize Chirps of Amazonian Birds in a Responsive Artwork by Andy Thomas

July 22, 2020

Grace Ebert

Based on an audio recording from a 2016 trip to the Amazon, Australian artist Andy Thomas interprets birds’ trills, squawks, and coos through an animated series of digital sculptures. An extension of a previous project, “Visual Sounds of the Amazon 2” is an abstract rendering composed of bursting dots, billowing fog, and flashes of amorphous forms that correspond to the avian sounds. With each chirp, the fleeting masses contort, grow, and disassemble into a new, vibrant form.

Many of Thomas’s projects explore the intersection of technology and nature, and he tells Colossal that he sees “computers as a hyper extension of evolution.” He expands on the idea by saying:

Humans are changing the biodiversity of the natural world and gradually replacing it with digitized versions, like echoes of the past. I am fascinated with the idea of generating digital art that references the beauty and complexity of nature. I hope this piece will encourage people to research the many amazing varieties of birds that call the Amazon home, and remind us of how fragile and important this place is to us all.

The artist ascribes “Visual Sounds of the Amazon 2” a more urgent context, as well. “This series is dedicated to the people of Brazil and the ecosystem of one of the world’s most amazing forests. The Amazon is known as the lungs of the world and is under constant and ongoing threats of deforestation,” he writes in a statement about the animated project.

Find more of Thomas’s visual explorations on Instagram and Vimeo, and check out the sprawling digital creations he has available as prints in his shop.

 

 

 



Animation Art

Visual Sounds of the Amazon: Digital Lifeforms that Respond to Audio Recorded in the Amazon Rainforest

August 23, 2017

Kate Sierzputowski

Australian artist Andy Thomas (previously here and here) presents his first installment of Visual Sounds of the Amazon, a responsive artwork that alters its visual shape based on audio Thomas collected from the Amazon rainforest. The animation sequence is one that can hardly be described, as bright bursts of light escape a tangle of blue and yellow helixes each time a bird squeaks, with similarly colored balls orbiting the digitally-composed mass.

Previously Thomas has made responsive artworks to other flora and fauna, specifically using recordings created in Australia and the Netherlands. This particular iteration will be screened at Render, a festival of animated hybridizations in Lima, Peru. You can view/listen to more of his otherworldly and adaptive video work on his website.

 

 

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