Dead Water

Marilene Ribeiro

Dead Water is a collaborative visual storytelling on an issue of global concern: the socio-environmental impacts of dams.

As a consequence of the pressure of the international market, recently Brazil has been facing an aggressive policy for expansion in hydropower plants despite the arguments of social movements, anthropologists and biologists concerning the loss of wild species habitats, impoverishment of local dwellers, and dismantlement of traditional cultures led by these infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, mass media fails to broadcast these facts, and also fails to support the claims of the ecologists and the affected communities.

Dead Water presents these costs of hydropower through a hybrid point of view: the one of the photographer and the subjects of this story together. Ribeiro’s project consists of inviting people who have been affected by the construction of dams for hydropower purposes (the subjects of this story) in remote areas of Brazil to sit for a portrait. For this photo shoot, each sitter is asked to choose a relevant place, as well as to select an object that represents the feeling(s) she/he has with regard to the move (due to the dam works). Each sitter is also asked to direct his/her own photo shoot, making the changes she/he wants in order to best represent himself/herself, her/his history and feelings before the potential viewers of the work. Hence, these images embody the sitters’ perspective, their feelings regarding themselves and the move due to the dam works, their environment, their memories.

Ribeiro also tries to somehow ‘re-build’ together with the sitters those places that were submerged (or, in some cases, that might also be submerged, if the plans of new hydropower plants are eventually accomplished) by gathering information and images that depict subjects’ places of living by the riverside, their local environment and their everyday life there. Eventually a narrative of these encounters as well as an archive of this ‘concealed’ part of the history of the dams are created by means of photographs.

About the Artist

Artist Website

Marilene Ribeiro is a Brazilian photographer based in Farnham, UK. She is a current PhD researcher at the University for the Creative Arts, UK. She is co-founder and member of ‘Agnitio – changing through photography’, a collective project that aims to empower communities via photography skills since 2007. Ribeiro is also one of the members of Biotrópicos Institute, a Brazilian Non Governmental Organization that deals with biodiversity conservation and the relationship between human beings and nature.

Ribeiro’s work has been exhibited in Brazil, Spain, China, and England. Her practice is focused on identity and contemporary issues, bringing together photography, intervention and collaboration.

In 2014 she was the recipient of the Royal Photographic Society Award – Postgraduate Bursary. In 2012 she was awarded the ‘International Art Residence Programme LabMIS’ by the São Paulo Museum of Image and Sound / MIS. In 2010, ‘Nos Passos de Jean’, a joint work conceived by the journalist Thiago Herdy and photographed by Ribeiro, was one of the winners of the ‘ESSO Journalism Prize’.

Articles about Ribeiro’s work have been published in France, Spain, Brazil, and in the United Kingdom:

‘Displaced memories’- by Elizabeth Mistry, The Royal Photographic Society Journal (2015);

‘Community as Transit and Stammering: On Dora García and Marilene Ribeiro’s collaborative blogs’ – by Helena González Fernández, Communautés impossibles/Impossible Communities (2012);

‘Gente, vertente, sertão’ – Caros Amigos Magazine (2006).