About the project:
Project Title: The Brazilian Far West
“In the absence of any State presence, weapons are used to conquer a piece of land,” Henri des Roziers, Pastoral Land Commission.
In Brazil, the abolition of slavery was a slow and gradual process that resulted in a huge class of free workers. However, they did not have access to means of production, in particular the land. Faced with the possibility that the abolition of slavery might result in the collapse of major rural producers, which depended on this workforce, the Brazilian Government ensured that the access to the means of production continued to be limited to a small number of individuals.
Nowadays, the 4% of landowners in Brazil control 80% of the arable land, and 5 million families remain landless. While some see the land as a business, others see it as a means of survival. During the last decades, this gap in the use of land and its uneven distribution has led to a violent outburst, chaos and conflicts over the land, what has resulted in a massive rural depopulation, in which those millions of dispossessed have created hundreds of favelas surrounding the cities.
I have dedicated the last three years working on documenting the hope, despair and struggles in these favelas in the major Brazilian cities, living with the marginal communities, formed by those landless families, with no rights, who had been running away from the poverty, oppression and violence of the interior of the country. Today, while Brazil is becoming an international agriculture superpower, thousands of landless and jobless workers in the countryside submit to exploitation in the farms, creating new forms of modern slavery, accepting inhuman living and working conditions and wandering between estates and towns seeking opportunities to support themselves and their families.
To develop this new chapter in this ongoing documentary project in Brazil, I'll focus in the Amazon region, as it is the area with the highest number of violent disputes over land, and also has the most reports of modern-day slave labor in the country.
For the last few months, I have been working with the Landless Movement and other organizations fighting for the human rights of the peasants of the area. Thus, I gained privileged access to different communities and situations that remain almost shut to the international press, such as the special operations that the police carry out to free enslaved workers within the depths of the Amazon forest.
My goal is to create a project based on photography, video and interviews to create a multimedia map of the origin of inequality and violence in Brazil - a visual document that condemns and raises awareness of the seriousness of the current situation that thousands of peasants are living by opposing to emigrate to the cities and who keep fighting for a piece of land. The Getty Grant for Editorial Photography will allow me to work long enough to do a thorough and compelling job which I hope will alert political and media leaders on this issue.
About the recipient:
Sebastian Liste was born in 1985 in Alicante, Spain. He is a photographer and sociologist working in many aspects of the contemporary life in Latin America and the Mediterranean Sea area, regions where he grew up and know well. He is currently living between Brazil and Spain.
Sebastian’s extensive documentary work has focused on the lives of diverse communities around the world. By 2009, when Sebastian finished his undergraduate studies, he had visited over 20 countries, including Laos, Ethiopia, Mexico, Mali, Cuba, and Nepal, where he created visual communication projects based on his deep knowledge of social issues. His work is enriched by the closeness and deep knowledge of their subjects.
One issue that he is passionate about and that has been constant in his work is the culture of resistance, human beings who transform their immediate environment to survive and how life in a community is created and shaped. We are living an important historical moment where this kind of life is changing and disappearing at the same time with the feeling of belonging and the identity. In 2010, while he was attaining a Masters Degree in Photojournalism at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Liste won the Ian Parry Scholarship for his long term project “Urban Quilombo” about the extreme living conditions that dozens of families face who have set up home in an abandoned chocolate factory in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.
The same year he was named the young editorial photographer of the year at IPA/Lucie Awards in New York. Since then his work have been published at TIME Magazine, The Sunday Times Magazine, Burn Magazine, Photo District News, Private Photo Review, British Journal of Photography, Daylight Magazine, GUP Magazine, Hotshot Magazine, and many other publications.
Sebastian is currently a Represented Photographer with Reportage by Getty Images. His work has been internationally recognized with numerous awards and exhibits, which are detailed here on his personal site: www.sebastianliste.com