I/Eye: On Photography

Landscape of quarries

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on August 21, 2009

The photographs below show working quarries not far from Taquara, a small city about an hour’s drive from Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Cuts in the earth are made directly into the hillside so that the quarry grows as a gaping negative space downward and upward from road-level. In many places there is no fence or barrier protecting the quarry from passers-by (and vice versa). This can be an indication that the quarry is ‘illegal’—that is, unregistered with the regulatory agencies—though it may otherwise be fully integrated into the local economy.

Quarry 1 (Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, 2008) ©  Sheila Newbery

Quarry 1 (Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, 2008) © Sheila Newbery

Exhausted or abandoned quarries are left to return to nature. I climbed the upper rim of one such place that had become a small lake, filled with rainwater. One of the local boys took me to a small ledge carved into the wall, advising me—too late!—not to grab onto a certain tree for support which bristled with sturdy, inch-long thorns. He described how in the summer he and other kids jump from the upper rim to the water’s surface—a drop of about 25 feet. As long as you know which part of the wall it’s safe to jump from, there’s not too much risk involved—and you learn this by being ‘one of the gang’. Some of the kids work in the quarries on a part-time basis (though this too is illegal), so the gaping wounds in the earth come to have a particular resonance with the young: they’re places of adventure, and often a first place of work. They’re familiar, easily accessible, yet they harbor a certain danger. They’re a central feature of growing up in the rural south.

Quarry 2 (Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, 2008) © Sheila Newbery

Quarry 2 (Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, 2008) © Sheila Newbery

One Response

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  1. cheryl said, on August 22, 2009 at 3:13 am

    the sense of scale is wonderful. dizzying.

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