I was living in New York City, with a theater degree and little else. I had had modest success, but too few opportunities were coming my way. I was professionally and spiritually bankrupt, but there was more.
I had just returned home from a trip to rural Brazil.
I had been there before to photograph the jangadeiro’s. The fishermen whom the great film director Orson Welles risked his career to film and described them as having, "the quiet decency and the blood of all men.” I remember how eager I was to return after six long years.
Unfortunately, in that time, globalization had done its damage.
In my absence, those once idyllic fishing communities were now the darling of cable shows catering to adventure tourism. Once proud fishermen were now giving boat rides to tourists. While I could see the short term benefits, I also worried about the darker side of globalization.
It did not sit well with me. Back in New York City the saga of the fishermen kept nagging at me. Powerful forces were uprooting century’s worth of culture and altering the entire ecosystem. I wanted to do something. I made up my mind to return and retrieve the last images of a dying culture.
But I needed help.
Serendipitously the images caught the eye of the United Nations in New York City. At their invitation, I addressed the global community with a series of exhibitions. It was an ideal opportunity to tell their story and the broader issue of environmental and cultural victims of globalization. It was here that led to the means to launch the expedition and drive Endangered Coast forward.
I believe giving is not so much defined as a convenient coin in a bucket by a passerby or a discarded coat for the homeless. Rather, it is defined by the generosity of those who can least afford to give.
A perfect example is the Brazilian fishermen. Join them for lunch and they will share with you or anyone who asks the little they have. It is this simple and beautiful act of giving that I conjure up whenever I need a jolt out of my complacency.
Paul Lima – Spring 1996