These photographs describe a place called Cristalândia. In this place, human experience is a shared one, accumulating over time to form a small Brazilian town.
I went to this place because I had no reason to go. There, I knew no one and could build relationships from scratch. As a Brazilian who has never lived in Brazil, I needed to understand why I stopped feeling Brazilian as soon as I was in it. I needed to understand why I didn’t belong there.
I went to this place because I wanted to understand difference – to know how to live with people who were different from me even though our passports said we were the same. My wide lens and large-format camera forced me to get close to people, where I’d have to participate in daily life not just observe it. Deliberately slow, my camera required me to ask them to hold still and collaborate, making a picture with them rather than taking one of them.
I went to place because I needed to share in their experience. Cristalândia is a mining town whose mining no longer sustains it, and it is shared human experience – not economic opportunity – that holds the town together.
In this place, shared human experience is outwardly visible. The warm, tropical climate erodes the mask between private and public; between inside and outside; between the end of life and the beginning. In a mining town, whose daily business is to commune with the soil, we are reminded that we have never really left the earth. In this place, we belong.
Joe Reynolds is a photographer, teacher and writer based in Lawrenceburg, TN. Twice a Fulbright Scholar, he has studied at the Salzburg Summer Academy of Fine Art in Salzburg, Austria, and has been a resident at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass, CO. He holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, East Tennessee State University and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. His work relies on the slow process of the large format camera to build relationships with the land and people he photographs. His pictures describe bonds formed from shared experience, bonds which weave us more deeply into each other than labels of nation, creed, race or gender. Since 2008, he has been photographing his evolving relationship with the small crystal-mining town of Cristalândia, Brazil. As a dual Brazilian/American citizen, he explores his growing sense of belonging within a community with which, at first, he shared nothing beyond Brazilian citizenship.