National Geographic : 2018 Oct
‘ IF YOU STRIP AWAY YOUR PRECONCEPTIONS, IT ’S A FAR MORE HONEST WAY OF CONVEYING WHAT PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY LIKE.’ This month’s cover story, on grave threats to the indigenous people who live in the Brazilian and Peru- vian Amazon, brings this subject into high relief. Our photographer, Charlie Hamilton James, spent a month with indigenous groups such as the Awá and Guajajara people; overall, he has spent a year and a half in the Amazon. We talked about the challenges and responsibilities of taking photos in this setting. Goldberg: Some of the people you took pictures of in the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon have little contact outside of their own communities. How do you approach people in sit- uations like this? Hamilton James: You can go in with two mind-sets: You can go in to show how different people are, or you can go in to show how similar we all are. If you go in to show how different we are, what you tend to show is exaggerated bits of the culture, and you can see that in the imagery—it exoticizes people, it romanticizes them. My interest is in photographing some fellow human beings, and I’m really interested in how similar we all are. I just want to show people living as people live, in the most honest way I can. Do you think you can capture the truth of what’s happening in these people’s lives? You didn’t grow up among them. And not to put too fine a point on it, but you’re a Isolated and at Risk: Peoples of the Amazon BY SUSAN GOLDBERG Photographer Charlie Hamilton James is a National Geographic Society fellow. CHARLIE HAMILTON JAMES OCTOBER | INTERVIEW WITH THE EDITOR One of the most challenging aspects of storytelling at National Geographic is introduc- ing our readers to people and cultures they’ve never seen before. It’s a beautiful part of our 130-year history but also an ethical minefield: What’s our responsibility in telling the stories of those who, at least outwardly, seem so different from us? How do we cover cul- tures sensitively, without “exoticizing” or romanticizing what’s natural for them? PHOTO: WARWICK SLOSS THIS INTERVIEW WAS EDITED FOR LENGTH AND CLARITY.