Photographer Claudia Andujar first met the Yanomami tribe when she visited the Amazon in 1971 for an assignment. When Andujar visited, the largest tribe in South America had already been decimated by measles and other illnesses that were brought on by an influx of outside visitors. The tribe had no immunity to them. She was so fascinated by the lives of the Yanomami that she returned to the tribe and embarked on an in-depth photographic essay about their daily lives, supported by a Guggenheim fellowship.
Andujar’s approach differed greatly from her contemporaries’ straightforward approach. She experimented with a variety of photographic techniques in an attempt to visually translate the shamanic culture of the tribe. One such technique involved applying Vaseline to her camera lens that gave her images an ethereal distorted feel. As the years progressed, Andujar also gave members of the Yanomami markers and paper. She felt that it was important to allow the tribe to represent their own conceptions of nature and the universe.
As Andujar continued her work with the tribe, modernity marched inwards into the Amazon. The Yanomami would be invaded by miners, construction workers, highways and more totems of the 20th century that brought diseases with them. In seven years, 20 per cent of the tribe perished. Andujar became an activist, fighting for the right of the Yanomami to exist and the tribe’s home to be designated a reserve. It was a long and hard struggle, but in 1992, the Brazilian government finally legally demarcated Yanomami territory. The fight took almost two decades.
The Exhibition by Cartier
Cartier worked together with curator Thyago Nogueira to curate the largest exhibition of Claudia Andujar’s photographic work. Based on four years of research into her archives, the exhibition is being presented at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain from now until 10 May. Then, it will travel to Triennale Milano, Italy in the fall.
The exhibition will also make stops at Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland on 6 June and the Foundation Mapfre, Madrid, Spain on 11 February 2021.
If you’re travelling to these cities during the periods mentioned, The Peak recommends that you check out the beautiful and haunting photos shot by Claudia Andujar in person. However, if you’re not, we’ve curated a selection of photos from the exhibition below.