Weltweit sorgten die Bilder des brennenden Amazonas-Regenwaldes in diesem Sommer für Schlagzeilen. Experten warnten vor den Auswirkungen auf das globale Klima, wenn der Wald vernichtet wird. Doch der Fortbestand der Regenwaldes ist nicht erst seit den Bränden in Gefahr. Mit seiner Politik begünstigt der seit Anfang 2019 amtierende brasilianische Präsident Jair Bolsonaro die Agrarlobby und facht den seit Jahren schwelenden Konflikt um nutzbares Land im Amazonasgebiet an.
Die Guajajara-Indianer im indigenen Gebiet der Arariboia wollen sich bei der Verteidigung ihres Landes nicht mehr auf die Behörden verlassen – und machen sich Tag für Tag auf die Suche nach illegalen Holzfällern. Wir haben mit dem Reuters-Fotografen Ueslei Marcelino gesprochen, der die Indigenen begleitet hat. Das Interview wurde auf Englisch geführt.
First of all we’d be interested to know what did you experience during the photo shoot and what made you pick that particular theme ?
I was already working on the theme of deforestation and burning in the Amazon before being able to accompany the Guajajara warriors on this mission. The fires spread through several states covered by the Amazon rainforest and we began to document the issue as a priority.
After a few days covering fires, deforestation and overflights, I noticed that the indigenous people were hard hit by this and I started visiting some of them. An indigenous man told me about the work of the Forest guardians Guajajaras and curiosity overwhelmed me.
I went to the Arariboia indigenous land, trying to record the action of the Forest Guardians Guajarara. I talked to the indigenous chiefs and also to the warriors and I had the opportunity to follow some of their rounds through the forest.
The Guajajaras literally risk their lives to defend what they believe to be the work to which their ancestors assigned them: "protecting the forest." No money, no proper logistics, no food, and for many hours without even drinking water, they have been fightinge against the invaders since 2012, when the group was created.
I recorded their daily life until the moment of a confrontation, when, very cleverly, the Indians intercepted three trucks with illegally logged timber on their land. In this confrontation a logger was arrested and the illegal wood was burnt, as it couldn´t be taken to the federal police. At the end of the confrontation, the logger was released and the Guajajaras returned to their villages, visibly tired and relieved to be alive, but with another mission accomplished. I had never experienced anything so intense.
When and where were you born, where have you been educated und what are stages of your professional career ?
I was born on September the 2nd in the federal capital Brasilia. Here in Brazil this is the day dedicated to photojournallists.
I studied Advertising while doing a photographer internship at a local newspaper. After it I worked as a freelancer for national newspapers in Brazil. I photographed everything you can imagine, always believing that it would be good to improve technically and culturally. I was associated with an independent photojournalism agency called AGIF where I covered sports. In 2011 I was invited to join the Reuters photographer team.
What is your standard camera equipment ? Is there any special or favorite gear ?
I use Canon, I always have with me a 5dMark IV with a 24mm 1.4.
I do love lenses with less depth. Nevertheless, in my kit I also have an EOS 1D X Mark II, along with 600mm and 400mm lenses. A 135mm and 50mm are there too. All fixed lenses, this kind of lenses makes me move more in search of the photo.
How do you process/edit your images ? What particular darkroom technique, software or apps do you utilize?
When editing, I try to follow the idea I had when shooting. To tell a story and to create a narrative with the photos I captured. Editing helps me getting the ideas in order. I need to have an organized idea before shooting, otherwise it usually doesn't work. I use strict rules in the treatment of images.
Fotostation and Photoshop are the software we use at the agency.
Do you have photographic role models ?
I do not.
Is there a portfolio or photobook that inspired you ?
As a photojournalist, it is my obligation to consume references. So I follow a lot of photographers from different areas. Classic photographers have also left their mark and it is inevitable not to feel influenced by them. Instagram today is a good tool for accessing many of these photographers.
Where can one find more of your photographic work?
Here you can see a little more of what I do on a daily basis, besides my social networks, where I usually publish or replicate what I find interesting: For Reuters under https://widerimage.reuters.com/photographer/ueslei-marcelino, on my website www.umafoto.com and on Instagram: www.instagram.com/uesleimarcelinooficial/.
Finally, I want to add that I believe we should never stop photograph.
As a professional I have an obligation to show what happens in our society. As an enthusiast, I recognize that we have never consumed so much images in the history of the planet. Photography is stronger than ever.