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.