Pedro David (Brazil)
The Brazilian countryside is being filled with eucalyptus trees. The country’s accelerated industrial development and the overheated importance of steel exports, led by successive Brazilian governments, are some of the reasons for the deforestation of the Cerrado in central Brazil, the Brazilian savanna, the Atlantic Forest, and even the Amazon.
Several international steel companies have bought large portions of land in Brazil and replaced the natural vegetation with transgenic eucalyptus, a fast-growing kind of tree whose wood is used to make vegetal coal, an important ingredient in the smelting of iron ore to steel.
The eucalyptus tree, however, makes high demands on the environment: it grows fast, consumes a lot of water and nutrients, and leaves the soil exhausted and dry.
I have been working in regions affected by these monocrops since my beginnings as a photographer. The extensive and visibly expanding eucalyptus fields have always concerned me because of the environmental and social impact of this non-native species. I can see it changing the landscape as a whole, the geographical references, the natural resources, the economical activities, and the use of water, which is now a global issue.
Since 2002, I’ve ridden and walked a lot inside these fields. I’ve photographed numerous places in the last thirteen years, trying to create work that addresses this question. During a recent trip, when I passed by a road that had been swallowed up by an enormous eucalyptus field and I came face-to-face with one of the consequences of eucalyptus planting. I saw an opportunity to make a photograph that represents what is happening on many levels: The documentary image I took shows the past, what is left of a native tree that is disappearing from these landscapes; the future, the expansion of the supra-vegetal eucalyptus trees; and the present, the photograph itself.
To me, this kind of documentary work is highly effective in educating people about the impact of such extensive cultivation of this and other monocrops, which has become a basic Brazilian problem. But I also see symbolism in this work beyond the direct meaning of the photograph—something that would move viewers to identify with the caged native trees struggling to survive in an artificial, oppressive, and vanishing world.
Pedro David was born in Brazil in 1977. He completed his B.A. in journalism at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais,Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in 2001, and he attended graduate school in contemporary fine arts at the Escola Guignard, Universidade doEstado de Minas Gerais, Brazil. He has dedicated himself to exploring the diverse relationships between people and their environment.
He has published numerous books: Underwater Landscape (São Paulo: Cosac Naify, 2008); The Garden (Salvador, Brazil: Funceb, 2012); Route Root (Fortaleza, Brazil: Tempo d’Imagem, 2013); and Catharsis Phase (Belo Horizonte, Brazil: self-published, 2014). His works are part of the collections of the Musée du quai Branly, Paris; Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, Brazil; Museu Nacional da República, Brasília, Brazil; and Minas Gerais State Museum, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
David’s latest work, 360 Square Meters, was awarded the Marc Ferrez Prize by the Brazilian Art Foundation (Funarte) in 2012. He had a Photoquai residency at the Musée du quai Branly, Paris, in 2012, and received the first Nexo Foto Prize in Spain in 2014. He has participated in many group exhibitions in Brazil and abroad since 1999, including the Noorderlicht Photofestival (2005, 2008 and 2009), Groningen, the Netherlands; 5th International Biennial of Photography and Visual Arts (2006), Liége, Belgium; Fotoseptiembre (2011), Mexico City; Generation 00: New Brazilian Photography (2011), SESC Belenzinho, São Paulo; the Latin American artist exhibition Esquizofrenia tropical (2012) at PHotoEspaña, Madrid; Photoquai (2013), Paris; and the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) 1st International Photography Biennial (2013), São Paulo and Curitiba, Brazil.