Gustavo Jononovich




RICHLAND is my first long-term book project about the over-exploitation of the natural resources in Latin America and the resulting long-term negative effects, both human and environmental. The push for accelerated world economic growth has led to increasing demand for natural resources. Rather than benefit from natural resources abundance and wealth, local people living in areas of exploitation have experienced loss of livelihoods, health problems, human rights violations and environmental degradation.
The images included in this submission were made in Brazil, Peru, Venezuela and Ecuador. In 2008 I traveled to Brazil, a rising demand for soybean on the global market has led the Brazilian government to expand the agricultural frontier into the Amazonia. I covered the struggle of the people who has been displaced by the expansion of soya business into the Amazon region. In 2009 I traveled to La Oroya in Peru, one of the world’s ten most polluted places where thousands of children have blood lead levels that exceed acceptable limits. The lead comes from a smelter owned by the American Doe Run Company. In early 2010 I went to Venezuela to cover the illegal diamond and gold trade. About 200,000 miners are searching for diamonds and gold on the border with Brazil. The idea of finding a single diamond or seam of gold is enough motivation to put up with living isolated in the jungle. In 2011 I traveled to Ecuador to work on oil pollution. Over three decades of oil drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Texaco dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater into the rainforest, polluting rivers and streams that local people depend on for drinking, cooking, bathing and fishing and leaving them suffering a wave of cancers and birth defects.
The EPF grant will allow me to complete this project. For the last part, I plan to travel to the south of Chile in order to cover the social and environmental impacts of the construction of hydroelectric dams in the Patagonia region.




Gustavo Jononovich was born in Argentina in 1979. He began his studies in photography in 2002. In 2006, he started working as a professional photographer covering local news for the Argentine media. Since 2008 his main focus are long-term projects, being more interested in providing an in-depth analysis on the stories. His first book project, “Richland” (currently in progress), is about the over-exploitation of the natural resources in Latin America and the resulting long-term negative effects, both human and environmental. His work has been published in BURN magazine, Newsweek Japan, PRIVATE photo review and PDFX12, among others. Gustavo’s main accolades include a nomination for the ICP Infinity Award in Photojournalism (2010) and awards from Sony World Photography Organization (2012, 2nd place Contemporary issues), POYi Latin America (2011, 2nd place in migration and human trafficking category), EPOTY (2009, 2nd place in climate change category) and 14EIF Gijon (2010, finalist).


24 thoughts on “Gustavo Jononovich – Richland”

  1. Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    So many things to like about this series on so many different levels. Enjoyed seeing this a lot today.

  2. There are at least several of the photos here that speak to the problem. Regardless, is there any real interest in solving the problem, photos or not? There needs to be more here, so we have the whole picture.

    In the U.S., government policy is now moving to loosen environmental regulation. Many people would rather have jobs now, and corporations riches now, and worry about the future when it gets here. With that attitude here, I’m not sure these third world countries have much care about this stuff.

    Welcome to the 21st Century.

  3. Gustavo,
    It’s good that you are exposing such atrocities to the planet. The health issues and human deformities remind me of Eugene Smith’s work at Minamata. Like him, you are doing a service to mankind, and at the same time jeopardizing your own welfare.
    It seems to me that at some point, man will eventually destroy the natural world that sustains him, unless we will destroy each other first.
    Either way, the planet may regenerate new life and start anew.
    I wonder if the life we now have has been recycled by previous civilizations that also destroyed their natural environments.
    Image #23 is striking to me. In it’s simplicity, it shows the enormity of the rain forest and all the life within it, and the smoking gun of human greed.
    Be careful, be safe, and keep up the good work.

  4. @ GUSTAVO:
    Desde el EPF que no me conecto a Burn, y hoy vi esto… Felicitaciones por ser finalista y por las excelentes y fuertes imágenes en la historia.
    Espero poder tomar unos “burnians” mates contigo cuando este por Buenos Aires.
    Abrazo grande

  5. DAH,

    For me it’s because someway or another they seem “complete”.
    I don’t have anything to say about what I perceive as complete.
    Composition, theme, subject, technique all of that mombo jumbo….

    I have been silently enjoying all of the EPF essays….

  6. eduardo sepulveda

    SELFALEE, David, +1 …

    in my case is the same with best interviews… unable to say a significant word about the one with Susan Meiselas.

    for me best essays go right away to ‘another place’… perhaps beyond words language. As Carlo says, where silence is the first step, the first reaction.

  7. Really, it is breathtaking work …completely impressed.

    It is so disheartening that these companies will get away with whatever they can, whenever they can …I don’t know how they can care so little.

  8. David

    Maybe they get the least comments because people don’thave any bullshit to say, it makes them silent. it is really good work, but i have to admit that when i saw the first photo I thought it’s an image from Trent Parkes Minutes to Midnight.
    good stuff anyhow.

  9. JUKKA

    hey man great to see you in Arles…i only wish had more time to actually sit down and talk…those things are great but it is really really hard to have any meaningful one on one discussion…but at least we finally met….let’s Skype again soonest to start thinking book book and book…

    cheers, david

  10. I waited a long time to post comments on the previous essay, because I’m tired of being the first one (due to my time zone). I kept wondering if everyone suddenly got comment fatigue or, worse, just don’t like them so much. Yes, these last two have been excellent IMO.

  11. very beautiful images and edit..
    but very sad and important story.

    I love this essay very much.
    Thank you and congratulations!

  12. Jukka, I think you may be right but I’ll add some bullshit anyway.

    This is such great work, so great in fact that it depresses me, not because of subject matter, or rather not primarily because of the subject, but because work like this, work which illuminates and infuriates and burns itself into the furrows of my brain, has so few outlets … anymore or ever? And by that I mean in print, or pad, for a larger audience.

    It is wonderful of BURN to do all that it does, to showcase amazing work like this from someone who is obviously incredibly committed and to give a broader audience, like me, a chance to view it but the ultimate apex of this work, the ultimate honor to the subject and to the commitment of the explorer who sought this truth, is to combine it with equally bright, insightful writing where the visual and rhetorical combine to complement one another and propel each to a greater understanding.

    I suppose that’s a fancy way of saying I want the whole package. I really want, in this case, to be royally pissed and I want to know what I can do.

    I want to know who sits on the board of these corporations, who benefits, where the money goes, and the value of a child’s life in Peru relative to the value of my car starting on a cold winter’s morning. But I don’t see the package I’m looking for, at least not in the U.S. Almost. In pieces. But the best investigative vehicles, the ones that take no prisoners and ruthlessly fact check, written by professionals, do not place equal value on the best art. And the converse is true. These are massive failures of vision. I would PAY for the privilege of having both, together, where the sum becomes so much greater than its parts. And I am not so cynical, yet, as to believe there aren’t enough people who feel the same way, or would feel the same way, if they saw, if a publication gave them a REASON TO CARE. The information age is awash in information but starving for knowledge. There is a difference.

    I want all of it together on a big page, brilliantly displayed and enticing (or perhaps experience it through a tablet?) Regardless, I want to know more. And perhaps this is the greatest compliment I can give to this essay.

    But can I spend months on an investigative piece to complement this photo essay? I spent two hours researching the broader issues and the corporations involved, and learned quite a bit I did not know including their operations in my own backyard. Shit. And then, there’s a smelter a few states away. With contamination in the community. How does this relate to what I am seeing here? What are the global economics involved? Which politicians are flacking to protect this industry which continues to pollute in my own backyard, and how does that relate to the deformed child on the Peruvian riverbank? Do they know? Do they care? Would they if they did? Could they continue to look the other way? Could you? What if a brilliantly written and visually compelling package could also show you how to make a difference, easily, with a click. What would happen if the story was so compelling it went viral?

    Think about it. The opportunities available now to effect change are massive. The potential in the critical mass of outrage has never been greater. Never. It topples governments now.

    Two hours. That’s the best I can do right now to dig deeper. It’s something but not nearly enough. I can’t “Like” something which does not exist. I can’t give, or write, or pass on, or tumble, or boycott, or protest, or vote, or spit on, or make any kind of difference, without knowing more, without the full package on which to base my choice of action.

    This essay is quite something. It moves. Likely, this is the best one person can do on their own. But not nearly enough. It depresses me that this is so, that for all its greatness of insight it sits alone. This in no way devalues the work. It’s just that I can see the greater potential. And I had to say something more than just, “I like it.”

    I would have to say the greatest thing I have learned from BURN, and from its creators, is that cynicism is death and attitude life. I like to think that ultimately platforms such as these will evolve, or create springboard evolutions (and I believe this has already begun), that will lead to the creation of new models based more on public service and less on the profit motive that illuminate, infuriate, subvert, and provide real knowledge in a publishing world dominated by cynical pandering. Vision is everything.

    As Carlos Santana would say, How can we reconnect the music with the light?

  13. Sidney Atkins


    Several days have now passed and no one has picked up on or responded to your comment…???
    Is this the 800-pound gorilla in the room that everyone is pretending they don’t see???

    Unfortunately, I am in the midst of deadline work and running late so I can’t be the one to pick up the ball from here, but yes, of course, you are right on the mark and this is what many or most of us should really be thinking about and trying to do something about even though we are mere mosquitoes that would battle the powerful leviathans of corporations and nation states who really don’t want us to know what is actually happening right now in the world. Please don’t think this serious and heartfelt plea of yours fell on deaf or indifferent ears. I will get back to you and to the subject. Meanwhile, I hope others will really read what you said, think about it, and respond…

  14. That’s probably part of the problem………..I am on a deadline will get back to you later……… I am a small voice…….. happy to pass the ball on to others etc etc blah blah blah

    Me I have no intentions of following anything up in direct regards to what is in this essay, I am toiling in our own patch where we know we can alter directions and have made inroads into the one dimensional corporate ideologies and attitudes.

    Tom platforms evolve by direct action unfortunately burn cannot accommodate this path as it is too broad in concept

    “Think about it. The opportunities available now to effect change are massive. The potential in the critical mass of outrage has never been greater. Never. It topples governments now”…………. I doubt if the Arab spring was a successful revolution as the status quo is still retained, all is “same same” but a sorta different government. Change still takes time, hard work, persistence in staying on track and not deviating and unfortunately that is not what most are willing to devote time wise

    status quo a band that changed the lyrics but not the structure………..

  15. Most people are getting on with things or playing with their phones wanting to get on with things. It is the way we are, social animals that resist too much change and turmoil

  16. Think about it. The opportunities available now to effect change are massive. The potential in the critical mass of outrage has never been greater. Never. It topples governments now.

    Although that may be true in some locales, I think the opposite is true in most of the world, particularly in the western “democracies,” especially in the U.S. First there was the massive ruse pulled by Obama, getting young people and progressives across the spectrum to by into the possibility of change and then once elected proving to be more efficient at implementing George Bush’s policies than George Bush. Then the ongoing unlawful smack down of peaceful protests related to the Occupy Wall Street movement have demonstrated beyond any doubt that we’re only free to the extent that we choose not to exercise any of those theoretical freedoms.

    Check out this article for the latest:

    A taste of what’s happening when non-violent folk attempt to protest peacefully:

    “By 10pm, LAPD attempted to disperse the growing crowd pushing onlookers with batons and by using tear gas, “stinger balls,” rubber bullets, and bean bags. Occupy LA protesters took to the streets chanting, “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” Police then charged into the massive gathering, while shooting rubber bullets indiscriminately into the now retreating mass of people. Two bystanders were hit with projectiles. One young man was hit in the face by a rubber bullet after exiting the 7-11 and another was shot in the side while walking through the crowd with his girlfriend on his way to his car. Three helicopters circled the area contributing to the chaotic atmosphere. One reporter told a group of people that the police declared an unlawful assembly, but when asked how he heard that, he confessed that his station manager called to inform him to exit the area. Another reporter seemed to be inciting the crowd by asking, “Why don’t you just go home?” Eventually protesters were split into smaller groups by cops moving forward block by block and shooting at the crowd. Many left the area as the police violence against on-lookers escalated.

    So yea, Tom, you’re free, as of now, to try to affect change by sitting isolated in your room and typing pretty much whatever you want onto the internet (though no doubt names are being taken), but if you go outside and try to exercise your so-called rights, you will likely be arrested on trumpeted up charges, if not beaten or gassed in the process. And as journalists, we have those exact same rights to be beaten and jailed if we might conceivably be showing the government in a bad light.

  17. Tom
    Been busy, just read your post. Sigh, yes and yes. Thanks for the kick in the crotch. Yes, too easy just to say “great stuff” and get on with life as usual. What are we to do? Should there be a “donate” button included with every essay? What will it take to affect change?

    Thanks to Gustavo’s enormous effort, a few more of us are a little more aware. Maybe the companies involved will see this, worry about their image, and make a few changes.

    Dunno……… back to my secluded life.

  18. Micaël Martel

    Very strong work
    incredible images
    Important issues
    Hits you with such force that you have to remain silent while watching,
    I couldn’t say anything or even move, that’s how powerful this project is.

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