The Amazon has long been a place of Western intrigue; its people and its nature mythologized and fetishized in equal parts. Yann Gross’ photographic expedition to the Amazon basin moves beyond such facile generalizations, revealing instead the everyday life of the indigenous inhabitants of this vast jungle area.
A traditional prophecy said that one day, a giant snake would come and swallow up the Suruí people, destroying them and everything else in its path. The snake arrived in 1969: it is called the Trans-Amazonian Highway. Measuring 4000 km long, this road has changed life in the Amazon forever. In just three years following its completion, the Suruí population dropped from 3000 to below 500; this is but one of many stories of tragedy engendered by the highway.
Gross, on a self-funded expedition that followed the Amazon River and the Trans-Amazonian Highway, determined to capture the stories he found along the way. Forgoing cliches, he photographed moments media outlets were not interested in; beauty pageants, shamanic gardens, and the Amazon’s first indigenous rap group: Brô MCs.
“The idea wasn’t to romanticize the Amazon, or to present it in a dramatic way”, he explained in a talk for Aperture. “The way I wanted to photograph all these things was more in a poetic way, because the reality is much more complex.” The result is The Jungle Book: Contemporary Stories of the Amazon and Its Fringe, a conceptual-meets-documentary publication that presents daily life in the Amazon at a time of ecological disintegration.