Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1950, I brought myself up between the sea and the Atlantic Rainforest. My initial discoveries of nature, rambling over the hillsides near my home, and playing on the waves and the sands of Copacabana beach, had a deep-rooted influence on my life and my work. Like sea-turtles, we retain the experiences of our childhood in the most remote depths of our mind, striving to return to them as adults.|
Photographing nature gives me the opportunity to recapture the images of my childhood. When people ask me why I picked this line of work, the reply comes very clearly: walking through the forests and fields is a vital need for me I must do this. When, barely breathing, I stalk monkeys, toucans or small birds through the forests, I enter into contact with the essential meaning of life. This revives my spirit and gives meaning to my existence. As an adult, it is natural for me to channel this need towards work, aiming at my own survival. I am also fully aware that my love for nature glows through everyone of my photographs, making my work a missionary force in the struggle to conserve nature and ensure the survival of the beings that I love and respect so much.
The work of Ernst Haas, Eliot Porter and Eric Hosking had strong visual effects on me. I admire these photographers as great creators, trail-blazing new techniques and concepts in nature photography. But, even for a photographer, experience is not merely visual. The Japanese poetry of the hai-kai, the poetry of India's Rabindranath Tagore, the works of Guimarães Rosa and Thiago de Mello "describing" the cerrado savannas and the Amazon Rainforest, Walden by Henry David Thoreau, and music by Debussy and Villa-Lobos (particularly Bachiana nº4 and A Floresta do Amazonas) are some of the powerful influences that have helped to shape the feelings and sensations that constitute my repertoire. Inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson,
My first photographs taken with my father's camera that had to be completely adjusted by hand were city scenes and shots of people in the streets. When I dropped out of the Economics course, and later Philosophy, at the Rio de Janeiro Pontifical Catholic University to dedicate myself solely to what I enjoyed doing, I experimented with some scenes of fields and forests. However, for some time, life as a professional drew me towards commercial product photography. Luckily enough, a commission from the Editora José Olympio publishing house (where my wife worked) took me to the Pantanal wetlands in Mato Grosso State in 1975. There, reality was finally revealed to my gaze. Flying over the flooded plains and watching its vivid birdlife, particularly the elegant members of the ibis and heron families such as jabirus, wood storks and egrets while deer and capybaras fled from the aircraft, I realized that I had to continue working like this for the rest of my life.
In the early 1980s, I met biologist José Márcio Ayres, who was studying the ecology of Amazon primates, and I went to visit his research area on Mamirauá lake, in order to photograph the white uakari monkey. This friendship resulted in a long-lasting collaboration which is still going strong today. In 1985, we suggested to the Brazilian Government that the Mamirauá Reserve should be established, finally decreed in 1990. Since then, I often work as a photographer in this reserve, as well as at the more recently-established Amanã Reserve. In 1990, I organized an expedition with a team of ornithologists to locate the almost extinct Spix's macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) in the sertão drylands of Northeastern Brazil. We found only one individual in its natural setting. The sole attempt to introduce a mate for it (reared in captivity) was not successful, and still today this lonely male lives free in the wild, seeking a mate.
Brazil is a land of great biological diversity, sheltering almost one-third of all remaining tropical rainforests on Earth. This fact, which is of major importance, is poorly understood by many Government agencies, and even less by the Brazilian populace. This is why I think that the social function of my work is to draw the attention of public opinion to its vast wealth of life-forms in all their beauty, paving the way for broader-ranging and more detailed knowledge of our ecosystems, plants and wildlife.
We will only save our biodiversity when we are able to understand it better. I believe that when a feeling of care and respect for nature sweeps through Brazilian society - and this will be prompted by education - then we can feel confident that our plants and wildlife will be preserved for future generations. I love nature, and I earn my living working with nature, just as primitive man once did in the past, which is why I feel deeply committed to its conservation.
I believe that the quality and the beauty of photographs are vital to attract the attention of people and win over their hearts, boosting the number of people who defend nature. I hope that my work get across the same feelings of happiness and excitement that I feel in these wild environments, and that my photographs do not simply turn into yet another document of the past.