Claudia Andujar is one of the most significant representatives of artistic documentary photography in South America. After fleeing National Socialism, she decided to pursue a career as a photojournalist with which she joined the fight against dictatorship and violence in her new homeland. Since the 1970s she has produced more than 60,000 photographs in her efforts to protect the Yanomami, Brazil’s largest indigenous population.
Her impressive series of images are both artistic and political, creating a panorama of Brazil that moves between the city and nature. Her encounter with the Yanomami, whose existence is threatened by the destruction of their living space driven by economic interests, has had the greatest impact on her life and her artistic work. In 1971 she travelled to the Brazilian Amazon for the first time as part of a photography commission for Realidade magazine and was fascinated by the Yanomami way of life. She increasingly turned away from photojournalism to devote herself to her life’s project: protecting the Yanomami. From 1971 to 1978 she lived with them in the Amazon until the military government drove her out. Then, with the missionary Carlo Zacquini, anthropologist Bruce Albert and other activists, she founded the Comissão Pró-Yanomami, an NGO campaigning for the establishment of a park to protect the Yanomami and their natural environment. Not least through this commitment, this habitat in the Amazon region was declared a protected area in 1992. The photographer also captured the community life of the Yanomami in her most important 1980s series, Marcados (The Marked). The black-and-white portraits of the Yanomami were produced as part of a vaccination campaign aimed at improving their health. At 87, Andujar is still an important voice in South America as an artist and activist – not least because the circumstances in Brazil give her no peace of mind.
Anthropologist Stephen Corry praised the work of the artist and activist Claudia Andujar, stating, “For 50 years she has photographed an Amazon tribe, the Yanomami […].The Yanomami were already famous. Claudia shows a people preoccupied by their place in the world, who accept full responsibility for the physical and spiritual health of their wider surroundings, both the visible and what is unseen. No Amazon tribe has been portrayed with deeper understanding.” He continued, “Claudia’s work, seen by millions, remains a unique legacy for all humanity.” Claudia Andujar announced in her acceptance speech that she intended to share the medal with the speaker of the Yanomami, Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, who was also in attendance at the ceremony.