A Febre do Ouro [The Gold Rush]
Photographs from the Serra Pelada by Juca Martins
Exhibition from July 9 to August 20, 2019
In the year 1980, while Juca Martins covered the story of the murder of a peasant leader in Pará, he heard of a gold mining that broke out in the Serra Pelada, southwest of Belém. After getting new rolls of film from São Paulo, and an authorization of Major Curió, that controlled access to the region, Juca was the first photographer to document the gold mining in Serra Pelada, when already 15 thousand men tried their luck in the middle of the Amazon forest. In 1981, one of the photographs in this report, in black and white, earned Juca Martins the Nikon International Prize for photojournalism.
Returning to Serra Pelada in 1986, at the height of the garimpo (opencast mine), when about 120,000 people had migrated to the region, Juca decided to record what he saw in color film. A little diffused vision of the mining is revealed in the 17 photographs that Utópica presents for the first time in São Paulo, in the exhibition The Gold Fever. More than actors in a collective drama orchestrated by the system, or pieces of an inexorable game dictated only by political circumstances, in the images that Juca Martins made of the Serra Pelada, people seem to tell us that they are there as individuals with their own will. In the photographs of the largest opencast mining in the world, the human dimension persists, even in the shattering images that show the immensity of a crater of more than 24,000 square meters open in the middle of the Amazon forest. Young people playing hand in hand on the dusty road, and the prospectors who smile at the Juca camera while they sift the wet earth, are images that come without intermediation to those who see them, they are human beings face to face. The earth, the water, and the skin of men, who go up and down the slopes carrying sacks of the earth in which they hope to find the fortune, mingle in a shade of penumbra, as in the painting of an artist dazzled by a scene that does not fit on your screen.
Manoel Joaquim Martins Lourenço, better known as Juca Martins was born in Barcelos, Portugal in 1949. He moved with his family to São Paulo in 1957. He began photographing in 1970. He was always a politicized photographer, formed by a very particular historical moment, during which he fought against social injustices and Latin American identity. His archive of images constitutes a historical patrimony gathered during a trajectory of more than 40 years like one of the most prestigious Brazilian photojournalists.