The trans and queer youth coming of age within the Amazon | Dazed

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Daniel Jack Lyons’ photobook Like A River paperwork the marginalised youngsters rising up within the coronary heart of the rainforest

Photographer Daniel Jack Lyons’ debut monograph Like A River (Loose Joints) is a coming-of-age story embodying most of the archetypal experiences of transferring inexorably by way of adolescence in the direction of maturity. Lyons describes his topics in acquainted phrases: “Young people whiling the day away, imagining and exploring new versions of themselves, Immersed in the banality of everyday life and riding the high of the rebellious creativity that it inspires.” 

Yet, in contrast to many depictions of stressed teenage life, the tales conveyed in Like A River are set within the coronary heart of the Amazon, among the many marginalised communities of younger individuals rising up within the rainforest. “It’s a space that accentuates the seemingly reckless courage of youth to live in truth, in spite of the relentless pressure to submit and conform,” he explains. “I think the biggest distinction is that this is all happening within a larger context centred on illegal mining, massive deforestation, and the Bolsonaro regime’s environmental and social policies, rooted in climate change denial and white supremacy.”

As an artist and anthropologist, Lyons was initially drawn to the center of the Amazon as a part of his ongoing work with marginalised youth, whether or not “occupying spaces on the periphery of society or in the face of conflict.” Like A River notably amplifies and empowers the trans and queer communities of the area, as Lyons explores the intersection of deep indigenous traditions and fashionable id politics meet in “the lush canopies and vegetation of the rainforest”.

“I think one of the biggest stereotypes that needs to be broken is the idea that there is just one kind of indigenous identity” – Daniel Jack Lyons

In 2019 he spent six weeks within the rainforest on an artist residency organized by Casa Do Rio, a community-based organisation that celebrates and helps the cultural lives of youngsters and younger individuals dwelling within the area. Over the following two years, he made two extra journeys, spending most of his time in a city referred to as Careiro which sits on the base of the Tupana river.

“This project is about challenging expectations and general assumptions about indigenous life in the Brazilian Amazon. In particular, it explores how the intersectionality of indigenous traditions and modern identity politics and how they are both guarded and celebrated against the backdrop of a toxic mix of environmental degradation, violence, and discrimination,” Lyons tells us over an e mail dialog. 

He invested quite a lot of time attending to know people in the neighborhood earlier than reaching for his digicam. “As a rule, I never photograph someone the day I meet them,” he says. “Each person in the book is someone I’ve spent a lot of time with, and most of the people, especially the trans and queer community, I’ve become quite close with. In many ways, this work is really just a documentation of friendships as they were formed.”

“All of the participants and collaborators that appear in this work are people who have very complex intersectional identities. While some people come from rural and secluded tribal communities and are proud of their heritage, they may also listen to hip hop and 90s indie rock, and are skaters, drag queens, musicians, land activists, and trans rights activists etcetera,” Lyons explains. “I think one of the biggest stereotypes that needs to be broken is the idea that there is just one kind of indigenous identity. More often, indigeneity is one aspect of multiple intersecting identities that work in unison, and are unique to each individual.”

Looking by way of the poignant pictures in Like A River, I ask Lyons about his enduring reminiscences of his time within the Amazon. It’s not a straightforward query to reply, however he remembers one explicit second which impressed the title of the ebook and appears to embody the spirit of his challenge: “One of the trans women in the book, named Andira, is from the same small village as a famous Amazonian poet named Thiago DeMello. We had been talking about the complexities of ‘being seen’ in an authentic way and how difficult that is, particularly for indigenous trans Amazonians. She, like many from the queer community, felt it was really important to collaborate with me on this project for the simple purpose of visibility. She told me about Thiago DeMello and then recited his poem, also titled Like A River. She stopped on the second to last stanza, and pushed through tears to repeat it twice. And then explained, ‘The trans community here is like our own small river in the Amazon, and it’s time that we meet the ocean, it’s time for the world to know us.’”

Take a glance by way of the gallery above to have a look by way of a choice of images from Like A River.

Like A River by Daniel Jack Lyons is revealed by Loose Joints




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