Eliseu Cavalcante’s Being Mangrove/Ser Manguezal series was inspired by Josué de Castro’s book Of Men and Crabs from 1967. De Castro was a Brazilian geographer, physician, writer, and activist against world hunger. In his book, men are envisioned as crabs, learning to walk in the mangroves. A common theme across the work of Cavalcante, who has also photographed the indigenous and river communities of the Amazon, is the symbiotic relationship between natural habitats and the communities that inhabit them. “Humans seemed to blend in with the mangrove, and it was easy to imagine them transforming into the mangrove roots, the crabs, and the mud,” Cavalcante said of Being Mangrove.
In September 2020, Brazil’s environmental minister rescinded protections for mangrove habitats, ending conservation efforts that stretch back to 1577, when Brazil was still a Portuguese colony. Brazil’s more than 8,000 square miles of mangrove correspond to nearly ten percent of mangrove habitats worldwide. This ongoing series of photographs takes a look at those who depend on the mangrove ecosystem to survive, and the delicate relationship between humans and this particular ecosystem. Cavalcante has expressed his desire that his photographs at once draw attention to the arduous work of crab hunters and emphasize the crucial need to preserve mangrove forests. The photos below were taken in the mangrove forests of Belmonte, Bahia, a state in the Brazilian Northeast.
© Eliseu Cavalcante. By arrangement with the photographer. All rights reserved.