27 December 2017

Documenting the Destruction of Brazil's Cerrado Ecosystem

27 December 2017 - Written by Veronica Sanchis Bencomo

José Diniz finds his inspiration in the rich and raw land of Brazil, yet, while documenting his motherland’s nature, he has encountered the contemporary challenges the landscape faces today.

© José Diniz, from the series, Terra Roxa

Terra Roxa is a project produced in the region of Cerrado Biome, a savannah that covers about 25% of the Brazilian territory, located in the centre of the country between the Amazon and the Atlantic forest. The region is rich and provides a good part of the water consumed across the country. The preservation of the Cerrado Biome has been a subject of much discussion recently due to the intense agribusiness in the area, which has led to disastrous environmental and social issues impacts.

Beginning as a research project in 2009, it later evolved into several series - including four artists books - for which each represents the elements of nature: earth, water, fire and air. Terra Roxa representing the earth element.

José Diniz’s work has long been inspired by his native Brazil; his work closely relates to memory, including places and people close to him. The photographer also talks about his family inspiration, namely his father who was a drawing teacher and an artist. "Father painted the landscapes from where we lived, we also studied together in the Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro and we lived with artists and teachers who revolutionised Brazilian art at the time", says Diniz.

© José Diniz, from the series, Terra Roxa

Diniz has always looked to capture memory in black and white since he finds this is the best way to represent the past, as well as his fantasies and delusions. Terra Roxa, in contrast, took a different shift, introducing colour to his narrative. "It is a record that evokes a present and future situation - it's much more realistic", he explains. Diniz’s proximity to his motherland is stated across his series and Terra Roxa is no exception of this. "I live very close to nature; the sea, navigating the rivers and bays. I try to incorporate in my work an image that can represent the sensations that I have always experienced with water. I hope the spectator can sense my own experience."

Terra Roxa also consists of a self-made publication where he produced a book entirely printed on ‘kraft’ paper, which is a raw without whitening, often used for wrapping. The other series that follow the project, Delicadeza Bruta, Vertentes, and Fogo Cerrado were produced using other types of paper, bound and shaped in order to represent, respectively, each element of nature.

© José Diniz, from the series, Terra Roxa

The photographer adds that "the artist book is an important experimentation space for the artist and a good medium to circulate the works in exhibitions as well as among collectors, galleries, universities or others who may be interested in the work. The photo book is a very important step before thinking about an exhibition. Each project or each series can result in several books, where I can see the result of the photo editing and the structure of the work."


José Diniz is a Brazilian photographer based in Rio de Janeiro. His work revolves around documenting his native Brazil. Follow him on Instagram.

Verónica Sanchis Bencomo is a Venezuelan photographer and curator based in Hong Kong. In 2014, she founded Foto Féminas, a platform that promotes the work of female Latin American and Caribbean photographers. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Written by

Veronica Sanchis Bencomo

Reading time

4 minutes

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