A boy rests on a dead tree trunk in the Xingu River in Paratizão, a community located near the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, Pará, Brazil. He is surrounded by patches of dead trees, formed after the flooding of the reservoir.
2022 Photo Contest, World Press Photo Long-Term Project Award

Amazonian Dystopia


Lalo de Almeida

for Folha de São Paulo/Panos Pictures
28 August, 2018

A boy rests on a dead tree trunk in the Xingu River in Paratizão, a community located near the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, Pará, Brazil. He is surrounded by patches of dead trees, formed after the flooding of the reservoir.

The Amazon rainforest, 60 percent of which lies in Brazil, is under great threat, as deforestation, mining, and exploitation of other resources gains momentum under environmentally regressive policies. Exploitation of the Amazon’s resources – such as minerals and metals including gold, as well as  timber – alongside infrastructural development, such as clearance of land for large-scale farming, hydro-electric schemes and the construction of roads, has led to massive destruction of the natural environment. According to the independent Council for Foreign Relations, Brazil lost around a fifth of its forest cover in the fifty years before 2019. Since 2019, devastation of the Brazilian Amazon has been running at its fastest pace in a decade, according to data from the research institute Imazon.

In recent years, fires – often set during land clearance – have led to wildfires, exacerbated by sustained drought conditions brought on by global heating. Conservation regulation and enforcement have been eroded under Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s administration. The president encourages farming and mining in protected areas, arguing this will combat poverty. In addition, large infrastructure schemes have been built. Bolsonaro frequently speaks out against environmental protection measures, and makes comments undermining Brazilian courts’ attempts to punish offenders. Environmentalists say that this is encouraging deforestation and creating a climate of impunity.

The rainforest serves several key environmental functions both regionally and globally – helping regulate the local weather and global climate. Currently, land conversion and deforestation in the Amazon release up to a billion metric tons of carbon per year, not including emissions from forest fires, according to a study reported in The Guardian. An area of extraordinary biodiversity, with some three million species of plants and animals, including endemic and endangered flora and fauna, the Amazon is also home to more than 350 different Indigenous groups, more than 60 of which still remain largely isolated. In addition to environmental threats, such as soil erosion following deforestation and pollution from gold mining, exploitation of the Amazon has a number of social impacts, particularly on Indigenous communities. The delicate codependence some Indigenous groups have with the forest has been disrupted, and clashes break out as land is forcibly seized. Workers flocking from other parts of Brazil for employment on infrastructure projects have led to an increase in violence in some areas, and a strain on resources in towns.

Lalo de Almeida
About the photographer

Lalo de Almeida (b. 1970) is a photographer based in São Paulo, Brazil. Having studied photography at the Instituto Europeo di Design in Milan, Italy, he began working as a photojournalist for small agencies covering daily news.  Upon returning to Brazil, he joined the newspaper Folha de São Paulo where he...

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Technical information
Shutter Speed





Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Jury comment

The project portrays the social, political and environmental realities of Brazil under the presidency of Bolsonaro. The visual language of cause and effect is well balanced. Each image is intentional and impactful, contributing to a collection of testimonies exposing the multilayered effects of the destruction of land, and pillage of natural resources, as experienced by Brazilian communities. Through strong editing and the range of aesthetic elements, the conceptual work looks beneath the surface and explores the psychological change in a people powerfully capturing their experiences of violence and endemic alcoholism.

The jury awarded this project the World Press Photo Long-Term Project Award because it powerfully demonstrates the effects of humanities’ abuse of the land and links these realities to a globally comprehensible narrative on the climate crisis.