"Girl, stay here by my side, because I know when the man will pass in my direction". The “girl” was me, the speaker of the phrase Brazilian photographer Ricardo Stuckert and the “man” the president of Brazil Luis Inácio Lula da Silva.
In more than 16 years as an international correspondent, this phrase is one of those that accompany me. A presidential visit is always a rush, especially when the president is someone charismatic, attentive; one of those rare people who don't shy away from reporters, photographers and journalists.
In the many presidential coverages, I did as a film reporter there he was, “Tuckinha” with his lenses, cameras and odd camaraderie. I followed him, in fact, chased him!
The photographer spoke to Wall Street International Magazine about his career, family, politics, about the Brazilian documentary Democracia em Vertigem, nominated for an Oscar, and about the exhibition at Aliança Francesa, in Brasília, Brazil.
With a career of more than thirty years, you came from a family of photographers. Your father was the official photographer for the last military president and you for the first union president. What were the teachings that “Stuckão” passed to “Stuckinha”? What did you inherit from your father as a photographer?
I am the fourth generation in a family of photographers. After the First World War, my great-grandfather, Eduardo Roberto Stuckert, emigrated from Lausanne, in Switzerland, towards South America, with no defined destination. At the first stop, he fell in love with Paraíba and stayed there. In addition to be a photographer, he was a painter and translator. He passed the first letter to his children, then to his grandchildren. It is a family tradition. In my family, between living and dead, there are 33 photographers.
I was born seeing my father, Roberto Stuckert, known as Stuckão, with a camera in his hand. He was a photographer at Folha de São Paulo when he was invited by General Figueiredo to be his photographer at the Presidency of the Republic. He spent five years in office. So, our family's history with political photography begins there. My father was the photographer of the last military president, me of the first worker president and my brother, Roberto Stuckert Filho, of the first female.
I grew up watching my father work; his dedication, discipline. And he taught me that a professional photographer has to be prepared all the time.
As official photographer of former President Lula for almost 20 years, what was the most important photo you took of him, and the saddest?
I have been following former President Lula since 2003. In those 18 years, it is difficult to choose a photo. It is not a single photograph, but a set. Each photo has a story. I can quote some that I consider important, for example, an image I took in Lauro de Freitas, Bahia, in 2006. In the photo, the boy Everton flies to touch the president's face. At that moment, it is possible to see the complicity of the two by looking at them. Another image that struck me was taken in Barbalha, Ceará. I took a picture of several people hugging Lula. I tried to capture the emotion that everyone there felt. On each face, a different expression ... joy, happiness, emotion ... each look portrays a feeling. I try to capture this through my lenses. The saddest photo, which I would not have liked, was at the funeral of his grandson, Arthur. It was very painful.
From photographer to director of photography for a documentary. You are nominated for an Oscar with Democracia em Vertigem, by director Petra Costa. The documentary traveled the world, won several awards and praise from leading filmmakers like Win Wenders and Spike Lee. How was that experience for you?
The experience was wonderful. I've known Petra for over 4 years. When she had the idea of making the film Democracia em Vertigem, we talked about the project and I was sure I wanted to participate. It is a film that narrates the political trajectory of Brazil at a very important moment in our history. As a professional, I have been working in the political field for over 30 years. It was a good opportunity to bring to the screen what I have been following for the past few years and show the public unpublished images from behind the scenes of politics.
My work as cinematographer on the film started by talking to the director about the importance of showing what was actually happening in politics in Brazil.
I already had many images and we were deciding which ones would be used. We took other images during the impeachment process of ex-president Dilma.
It was a team effort, in which each member contributed. I learned a lot during this whole process.
Seeing so many important people in the field praising the film is very rewarding because I see that we are on the right track.
The documentary is a very moving story because it portrays a troubled period of national politics and has rich elements of the director's personal life. Petra, with her sensitivity, managed to show the world how weak Brazilian democracy is.
What challenges you most: politics or the forest, why?
It is difficult to answer. Both themes are challenging. In the Forest, you have to ask for permission to enter. The Forest has her time, she owns her own time. There is no such anxiety about the city. We think you take a cell phone and call, send a message, and the person responds. There, there is a whole ritual, you have to respect the culture, you have to breathe the culture, you have all their work, this calm and this wisdom. You have to learn how to reduce this to be able to perceive and adapt to an ancient culture. We think we are owners of the world, we arrived and relearned the art of stopping, breathing and talking, which we do not do today, because everything is online. There, it is looking into the eyes, touching, feeling; people are pure. When you enter the Amazon, there is no way to predict things. You can't tell if it's going to rain, if it's going to be sunny, if I'm going to be able to take that image I planned. There is a mutually respectful relationship. It is a constant challenge. Politics too. To enter this area, you need to be professional, people need to trust you. And the two themes are related. You need the policy to ensure that the rights of indigenous people are respected, territories are demarcated and the forest is protected. When politics omits this, the whole planet is harmed. That is why photography is so important. Through my images, I want to make people aware of the importance of preserving the people who inhabit it.
From the political jungle to the forests. When and how did the passion for the Brazilian indigenous population arise?
In 1997, as a photographer for Veja magazine, I took a trip to Nazaré Community, in Amazonas, where the Yanomami Indians live. It was the first time that I had the opportunity to photograph the native peoples of my country.
There I met the Indian Penha Goés. She was 22, with a 2-year-old son and a history recorded at a glance. In 2015, I decided to meet her again to take the photo I took when Penha was 22 years old. When I met her again, I didn't see that 20-something girl, but a 39-year-old woman who had kept the same purity in her eyes from 17 years ago. There I was sure that I had a mission not only to photograph the indigenous woman who marked my professional trajectory, but to humbly pay tribute to the indigenous peoples of my country.
I think it is very important to disseminate Brazilian culture and show the way native peoples live today. There are young people who are being born who have never seen or will never see an Indian in their lives. I think photography has the role of bringing a culture like indigenous to thousands of people.
Which was the most difficult tribe to photograph. Why?
All villages have difficult access. There are many hours of flying and travelling by boat. But all of this is rewarded. When you arrive, you are amazed. It is a beauty and energy that I cannot describe. It is a rewarding job despite the difficulties.
The indigenous people are wise, guardians of rivers, forests ... they continually teach us the importance of respecting and preserving nature.
Indians or politicians?
Without politics, I might not have photographed Brazilian Indians again. I worked in a government that has always looked at environmental and indigenous issues. I learned a lot from this and always knew the importance of photographing them in order to have a record of our people, our culture and also to call attention to the importance of preserving these peoples and the demarcation of their territories.
As I am a photojournalist who covers politics, I live politics and breathe politics, when I go to a forest, to a village, I enter another time. Time is their time, the time they want to answer, they want to talk, in their own way. There is no such anxiety about the city. We think you take a cell phone and call, send a message, and the person responds. There, there is a whole ritual, you have to respect the culture, you have to breathe the culture, you have all their work, this calm and this wisdom. You have to learn how to reduce this to be able to perceive and adapt to an ancient culture. We think we own the world. In the forest, we relearn the art of stopping, breathing and talking, something we don't do today, because everything is done electronically. There, it is looking into the eyes, touching, feeling; people are pure. My great teaching was having to ask permission to enter. A spiritual permission to understand the other's culture.
How did the idea for the exhibition come about? Will it travel through Brazil and abroad?
I always wanted to make an exhibition with photos. With the invitation of the French embassy, it was possible to make this project a reality. I really want to take this exhibition to other places. It would be a great opportunity to show the culture of people from Brazil to the world.
Is every day an Indian day or is it only in Brazil on April 19 (the national indigenenous day in Brazil)?
Every day is a day to fight for the rights of the peoples of the forest and for the demarcation of their territories.