The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation For Documentary Photography & Film
2012 Photography Grant Laureate – Gustavo Jononovich
Region/Impact: Over-exploitation of Natural Resources in Latin America
RICHLAND IS MY LONG-TERM DOCUMENTARY project about the over-exploitation of the natural resources in Latin America and the resulting long-term negative effects, both human and environmental. The push for accelerated world economic growth has led to increased demand for natural resources. Rather than benefit from natural resources’ abundance, local people living in areas of exploitation have experienced loss of livelihoods, health problems, human rights violations and environmental degradation.
I divided this project into stages that address a specific aspect of the theme in different countries. The images included in this submission were made in Brazil, Peru, Venezuela and Ecuador. In late 2008 I traveled to the Amazon in Brazil. A rising demand for soybean on the global market has led the Brazilian government, together with multinational agribusiness companies, to expand the agricultural frontier into the Amazonas. I covered the struggle of the people who have been displaced by the expansion of soy agribusiness to the region. In 2009 I traveled to La Oroya in Peru. La Oroya is known for being one of the world’s ten most polluted places where thousands of children have blood lead levels that exceed acceptable limits. This grant will allow me to complete the Richland Project by covering the social and environmental impact of hydroelectric dam construction in southern Argentina and Chile.
Before starting this project I had been working for about two years covering local news for the Argentine media. I began feeling stuck in the daily routine. I needed a change. I wanted to travel to the Amazon so I looked for a story for me to tell. A friend of mine told me about the problems linked to the soybean industry in a city called Santarem in the heart of the Amazon in Brazil. I spent a few months reading about this and wondering how I could best tell the story through images. Then I was fired from my news desk job; the compensation I received covered almost all of my travel expenses, and allowed me to spend two months in Santarem. I am going to be forever grateful to the foundation for trusting in me and in this project.