Julia Pontés

Photographer | Artist
Minas Gerais | Our Land, My Landscape
Location: New York
Nationality: Brazilian
Biography: Júlia Pontés (b.1983 - Minas Gerais, Brazil) - Based in New York and Buenos Aires.  Júlia Pontés is a Brazilian-Argentinian investigative artist, photographer, researcher, and activist. Pontés' work... MORE
Public Story
Minas Gerais | Our Land, My Landscape
Copyright Júlia Pontés 2024
Date of Work Feb 2015 - Ongoing
Updated Feb 2024
Topics Aerial, Climate Change, Community, Conservation, Discrimination, Documentary, Environment, Human Rights, Photography, Photojournalism, Spotlight
Mining is so deeply rooted in the Brazilian State of Minas Gerais, that it runs in the blood of almost every single citizen – including my own.

The smell of burned iron is familiar and oddly comforting. For years my life revolved around a family iron ore processing plant. Ironically, my grandmother, my mother and I suffer from a genetic disease that prevents the processing of iron in our bodies.

Even though mining is responsible for 15% of Brazilian gross product, it does so at the cost of environmental devastation and social disparities. A few of the numerous side effect of this activity are: semi slavery employment, high levels of prostitution, lack of water, deep air pollution, increase of temperature, deforestation etc. And, historically, I was part of that system.

In November 2015, the collapse of a mining tailings’ dam caused the largest environmental disaster in the country’s history. 10.5 billion gallons of mud It overwhelmed smalls towns and one of the country’s most important watersheds. Since then, mining became the core of my practice and research. For the past 3 years I have been working on a project about mining - focused in Brazil. There, the intensive mining activity has resulted in a radically changed - and decaying - landscape.

The full extent of the human and environmental devastation caused by this accident, and by open pit mines more generally, are obscured by the region’s mountainous terrain, relatively inaccessible to the local population. Working in collaboration with a pilot, I have been photographing from above, sometimes flying in forbidden air space.

Mining also shaped the identity and the challenges faced by local society. I wanted to explore and investigate the emotional relationship between the man and the land so I expanded my investigation to the ground and have been traveling by myself through the regions I had flown above.

Also, the Amazon rainforest is hugely compromised by mining. Currently, 10% of the Brazilian soil is under a concession for one of the hundreds of mining related companies operating there. Many mining towns have already reached -and surpassed - the 2 degree celcius temperature increase, the global agreement.

Every day we are surrounded by metallic components. The computer and the keyboard which I am typing this proposal are part of that chain. o produce a car an average of 4,200 pounds of iron ore is needed. Demand and source urgently need to come to a balance, once the damage is done, there is no way back.

If the land is a body, mining exploration is a violent act of penetration.
The new matter is conquered by a constant extirpation where the subject is defenseless.

*ongoing project

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Minas Gerais | Our Land, My Landscape by Júlia Pontés
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