In the past few years I’ve focused on the Amazon, where a number of huge infrastructure projects are threatening the traditional indigenous way of life. I also photograph the impact of climate change, the increase in violence in the interior of Brazil and the ineffectiveness of the government in the area.
My earliest memory of photography is one spring afternoon in a park in Porto Alegre, when my father was taking photos of my sister and me, framing the image with flowers and a green lawn. I must have been seven or eight.
When I was 17, my mother gave me a Pentax K1000. Soon afterwards I met Geraldo Tavares, a photojournalist at a local paper, and told him I wanted to be a photographer. He put me in touch with the editor and despite still being pretty clumsy with my camera, he liked my enthusiasm and gave me two weeks work experience. Two weeks turned into three months and I ended up with a contract.
Today I see that my first assignment was pretty simple, just a portrait of a local prosecutor. But it was the first week of my internship and the photographer I was supposed to be shadowing had run off to do another job. I didn’t know my way around the equipment and knew nothing about what made a news picture, so the image turned out pretty bad. But I remember the rush the next day of seeing my picture in print. I learnt that a large part of this profession is giving people what they don’t expect.
One day I was sent to cover the demolition of an illegally constructed house where an elderly woman and her two children lived. The situation was so frustrating because the space was too small for the government to build on and the family’s eviction was just to make a point. I loitered around in the building to delay the demolition when a policeman came in and said, with tears in his eyes: “It’s my son’s birthday today. He is the same age as the kid here. You think I want to see this family homeless?” He asked me not to take any photographs and I asked him to hold off the demolition. For days I watched my phone, constantly waiting for the call from the children saying the demolition had happened. But it never came. If I had taken that photo it would probably have made the cover. But I learnt that, in some moments, a cover photo has no importance at all.
I’m excited by covering stories which no one else is telling, instead of just shoving for a shot next to a pack of photographers. There are so many subjects poorly covered by the media and although it’s not always possible, I feel most useful when I’m working on these stories.
I like to think that people who see my images will care about the theme and maybe do something about it.
My biggest lesson has been to look twice at every situation. In this profession it’s easy to fall into preconceptions and to repeat old arguments. But if you try to come to things fresh, you have more chance of seeing something new and capturing an image that is your own.