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Photojournalist Tommaso Protti’s Chronicle of Amazon Deforestation

Earlier this year, Italian photojournalist Tommaso Protti was awarded the prestigious 10th Carmignac Photojournalism Award. The award allowed him to document the deforestation of the Amazon, to bear witness to the environmental, humanitarian and social crisis resulting from this catastrophe in the region. His response was deeply personal: An eyewitness account of a subject that concerns us all in terms of the future of the planet we inhabit.

His project “Amazônia” will be exhibited, for the first time, at Maison Européenne de la Photographie (MEP) in Paris. The show opens on December 4 and continues through February 16.

From January to July 2019, Protti, accompanied by British journalist Sam Cowie, travelled thousands of miles across the Brazilian Amazon to create this work. They portrayed life in modern day Brazilian Amazon, where social and humanitarian crises overlap with the ongoing destruction of the rainforest. We meet indigenous activists who fight to protect the forest for future generations, and witness the destruction caused by loggers, land grabbers and miners who exploit the region’s riches for their own profits.

Protti also takes us to Brazil’s urban metropolises, where warring drug gangs kill to get control over the cocaine trade, and where desperate Venezuelans fleeing the civil conflict in their country live in makeshift camps. We get to understand the huge damage inflicted on traditional river communities. And importantly, as Cowie puts it, his images show us “a glimpse at everyday life in one of the planet’s most extraordinary regions: people date, go to parties, worship and try to enjoy life, just like anywhere else.”

Protti says, “I wanted to illustrate the social transformations, focusing on the veiled truth of the bloodshed and destruction that are currently taking place in the region. These diverse forms of violence are the consequences of changes in the global market, as well as of the exponential increase of global consumption, from cocaine to beef. Scientists claim the forest is reaching a point of no return because of deforestation, fueled by illegal logging, and because of land grabbing, agricultural expansion, [and] state- and private sector-led development and resource extraction projects. I believe it is important to raise awareness of this situation and question it.”

A bilingual French-English catalogue “Amazônia, Life and Death in the Brazilian Rainforest” accompanying the exhibition was co-published by Reliefs Editions and the Fondation Carmignac.

Created in 2009, the annual Carmignac Photojournalism Award supports photographers by funding the production of an investigative photo reportage on human rights violations and geostrategic issues around the world. Selected by an international jury, the laureate receives a €50,000 grant and logistical support from Foundation Carmignac. Previous laureates include Kai Wiedenhöfer, Davide Monteleone, Newsha Tavakolian, Robin Hammond, Yuri Kozyrev and Kadir van Lohuizen.

The show at Maison Euroéenne de la Photographie will also include work from three other artists: Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, Harley Weir and Manon Lanjouére.

—Samantha Reinders

Tommaso Protti
Maison Européenne de la Photographie
Through February 16, 2020

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