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8. Collaborate, co-create and participate

EN: Women in the front line. Oceti Sakowin Camp, Cannon Ball, ND, United States. November 11, 2016. ES: Mujeres en primera línea. Campamento de Oceti Sakowin, Cannon Ball, ND, Estados Unidos. 11 de noviembre de 2016. PT: As mulheres na linha da frente. Oceti Sakowin Camp, Cannon Ball, ND, EUA. 11 de Novembro, 2016.

Many Indigenous Peoples take decisions collectively, which is why self-interest or competitive behaviour can be a serious problem when working within Indigenous Territories.  Be mindful of the terms you use and how you refer to the people you work with, ensuring you deal with everyone as your collaborator, while striving to show utmost respect, friendship and appreciation for the support received.

Process comes before the end-product. Conducting work with Indigenous Peoples means working in a way that is consensual, community-based and for a common goal. Work should be designed as a participatory and co-creative effort from start to finish, ensuring equality, fairness, transparency and mutual support.  

This principle must travel from the image producers, to distributors, to publishers and on to consumer of images wherever possible.

Imagine a world in which if someone is going to photograph me, to be able to choose together which photographs are published, or what João Roberto Ripper always does - letting them delete the photos in which they don't like themselves. These kind of practices ends up being very interesting, while creating a relationship between the person, the photograph and the photographer that is much more horizontal.”

Pablo Albarenga, documentary photographer and visual storyteller, Uruguay

EN: Guaraní Yvyrupá Community in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. Xondaro was the first child to be born in the sit-in. Even at his age, he participates in traditional dances in which everyone touches the ground with their feet. ES: Comunidad Guaraní Yvyrupá en la Mata Atlántica de Brasil. Xondaro fue el primer niño que nació en la sentada. Incluso a su edad, participa de los bailes tradicionales en los que todo el mundo toca el suelo con los pies. PT: Comunidade Guarani Yvyrupá, na Mata Atlântica do Brasil. Xondaro foi o primeiro garoto a nascer no protesto. Mesmo tão jovem, ele participa das danças tradicionais em que todos tocam o chão com os pés.

I started with a vision of photography based on references that today must be questioned, guys who went there, did important things, then were framed as heroes…. That narrative of the hero - today, has completely gone, and today I'm thinking more about much more collective projects ... where people really feel at ease and represented in those images, in those stories."

Pablo Albarenga, documentary photographer and visual storyteller, Uruguay

EN: Guaraní Yvyrupá Community in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. Every morning, a group of children led by a young leader go into the forest to check their traps. ES: Comunidad Guaraní Yvyrupá en la Mata Atlántica de Brasil. Cada mañana, un grupo de niños guiados por un joven líder se adentran en el bosque para revisar sus trampas. PT: Comunidade Guarani Yvyrupá, na Mata Atlântica do Brasil. Todas as manhãs, um grupo de crianças, guiadas por um jovem líder, vai às profundezas da floresta para verificar suas armadilhas.

A portion of these images were possible thanks to the Rainforest Journalism Fund and the Pulitzer Center.

You're collaborating with people, they're giving you their time so that you can tell your story. Right? So I want to see that in the captions. I want to see that in the text. I want to see that in the pictures. I don't want to see people that I can tell they were not 100% aware that their picture was going to be taken. So that plays a huge role. Context plays a huge role. Collaboration plays a huge role.”

Laura Beltrán Villamizar, Photography Editor, Atmos Magazine

Claudia Andujar‘s work has been led by a commitment to her relationships with the Yanomami first and foremost: “Developing an intimacy with the individual and community came first. The photography was always secondary to that” (quoted in Basciano, 2020).

The Yanomami agreed to the circulation of Andujar’s portraits in order to raise awareness of their struggle.

EN: Entire families spend days in the forest during collective hunting expeditions, Catrimani – from The Forest series. Courtesy Galeria Vermelho ES: Familias enteras pasan días en el bosque durante las expediciones colectivas de caza, Catrimani - de la serie A Floresta. Cortesia de Galeria Vermelho. PT: Famílias inteiras passam dias na mata durante as expedições de caça coletiva, Catrimani - da série A Floresta. Courtesia da Galeria Vermelho
Photo/foto: Claudia Andujar

Andujar’s approach can be contrasted with a photograph by Brazilian photographer Joedson Alves of a group of Yanomami women with face masks in July 2020 that circulated widely throughout Brazil and worldwide. 

In an interview with the newspaper ‘O Estado de Minas’ the photographer describes arriving by plane with the military and disembarking. “I and the other colleagues went down to document … and the women were quite shy and did not come close. So I went back to the plane, got a 400mm lens, for those who don’t know it’s a lens that can get a longer distance..and I bent down…a bit hidden behind some bushes where they couldn’t see me.”

The photograph was nominated for the Vladimir Herzog Journalism Award for Amnesty and Human Rights but was excluded from the prize when Yanomami leaders denounced the photo as violating their rights, saying that they had not been consulted about the trip, nor had the women in the photo consented to being photographed.


I don't want foreign people to come just to take pictures of my children. People from far away took pictures and we don't want that ... We don't want to be government propaganda."

Indigenous leader Paraná Yanomami in a video released by the Pro-Yanomami Network

This image itself is very strong and beautiful, but in the end it was not consistent with the people’s reality, in the sense that there was no prior authorisation to capture such an image and even less to have the presence of non-Indigenous people in the territory during a pandemic, as the Yanomami themselves claim in an official letter of repudiation.”

Edgar Kanaykõ, ethnophotographer & anthropologist, Xakriabá people, Brazil


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A post shared by Josué Rivas (@josue_foto)

I use storytelling, specifically visuals, a lot; a lot of visuals to co-create with communities. So not, say, “I'm telling your story”; but rather - how can we tell your story together and how can we give you the tools as much as possible so that you give us the story, instead of us taking the story from you?”

Josué Rivas, Mexica/Otomi photographer, Co-Founder Indigenous Photograph, Mexico/USA

This project is being disseminated during a turbulent but welcome period of reform in photography. However, major issues regarding diversity and inequality are systemic both in the creation of, and representation within, images. We therefore placed a specific emphasis on ensuring that these research and photography outputs are created where possible in participation or co-authorship with representatives of Indigenous Peoples. This has included the fair payment of an honorarium for featuring and crediting all original photographic works. The full research report linked below was originally conceived as a simple white paper that would assist in the creation of new visual principles for this subject area. However, Climate Visuals must pay tribute to the commissioned research team and our numerous interviewees for their endeavours and flexibility in taking this project on a much deeper journey - far beyond our pre-defined impact agenda. The report has immeasurably improved the vision, perspective and understanding of the Climate Visuals programme, and as an original piece of impact-focused work we hope it also becomes a valuable tool for stakeholders from all sectors and communities.

Toby Smith, Visuals and Media Programme Lead, Climate Outreach

The future of storytelling, especially of Indigenous Peoples, is going to be collaborative. Things might not go exactly how I want them to go and the film might end up looking something completely different. But that's OK, if the person that's in the image in the video feels good about it."

Josué Rivas, Mexica/Otomi photographer, Co-Founder Indigenous Photograph, Mexico/USA

Download the full report

Download the full report

This report provides the foundation for this web-based resource. Commissioned by Climate Visuals and produced by Nicolas Salazar Sutil with picture research by Jaye Renold, it includes conversations with Indigenous leaders and photographers, media stakeholders and NGOs in 10 countries.