Araquém Alcântara

Araquém Alcântara, master of nature photography

Seu Manuel thought the name of Iracema’s father, a character in José Alencar’s book, was beautiful, and baptized Araquém’s son – despite the woman’s protests, Maria. Perhaps he did not know the meaning of the name, “the great bird”, and he certainly did not imagine that his son would reach stratospheric and intercontinental flights.

Although born in Florianópolis, it was another island that shaped the personality of Araquém Alcântara, one of the greatest nature photographers on the planet. It was in Santos where this true poet of light had remarkable experiences, which threw him into the world of photography.

It was there that he watched the film “The naked island”, by the Japanese Kaneto Shindô, shown by the French cinephile Maurice Legeard .

Where did the first photo. Boy, he borrowed a camera from a friend and went to Boca to record the show at one of the nightclubs. He spent the night petrified and did not make a single shot. Returning to the house, already dawn, at the bus stop, a whore saw the camera and shot: “Do you want to photograph? Take pictures here! ”. She lifted her skirt and showed the sex. Reflex act: click!

Where he recorded a sequence of photos of a vulture, in front of a fishmonger. The bird landed on the sidewalk and a boy of about 3 was enchanted and tried to pet it. Quickly, men who were in the fishmonger went out and scared the animal away.

Boy observes vulture, one of the first photos of Araquém Alcântara
Boy observes vulture, one of the first photos of Araquém Alcântara

“These are episodes that remain on my retina and helped to shape me into what I am today,” recalls Araquém Alcântara, born in 1951 and an adolescent vigor.

Decades have passed. They were brilliant passages for newspapers like “Tribuna de Santos”, Jornal da Tarde “and” Preto no Branco “, works for prestigious publications like” National Geographic “. Wanderings through all national parks in Brazil, the Amazon, the Pantanal, the plateaus, the Maranhão sheets, beaches…

Thousands of kilometers, millions of frames, prizes and dozens of published books do not make the life of Araquém “the great bird” Alcântara easier when editing a new work.

Cut into the flesh

The editing process is not at all easy. From thousands of records, he initially sifts a few hundred. Then there were dozens, which make up the publication. “To choose a photo is to cut into the flesh itself, a painful exercise”, he says. “But there is also the need to make the narrative a sushiman’s knife cut.”

Let him explain: “You have to take the photographs, choose, enlarge and paste them on the wall. You have to print, you can’t just see it on your computer screen. Put them all together, as if they were in a book. Look, look, look … Look! Then, throw away what you don’t like very much. Whatever stays, you separate. You have to learn to discern the good picture from the bad one ”.

Patience and contemplation

“The wild photographer, for example, loses 99% of his photos. But that 1% corrects everything, makes up for the rest. All the discomfort, the weight of the equipment, insect bites, the walks, the bad food ”.

“The photographer has to exercise patience and contemplation. You have to exercise shamanism, you have to believe that the photo will roll, that the animal will appear. I already ran into animals, with fantastic scenes, but I lost the photo because it wasn’t ready. To be ready is to be faster than the animal, it is to become an animal! In this journey, you mature as a human being and your images reflect that ”.

“There’s a quote from Guimarães Rosa that says: ‘To learn from stone, go to it. If you want to get to know the Amazon, you have to immerse yourself in it. There is no use going there at the Ver-o-Peso Market, doing like some cooks, who talk about the Amazon as if they knew and commit barbarities’. ”


Text by Araquém Alcântara)

The true photographer of nature, like any photographer, must choose the path with his heart and travel on it tirelessly, contemplating as a whole person everything that is alive. Absolutely upright, with no purpose to achieve, without submission to rules and formulas, without the need to appear brilliant or original. Only then, authentic and free, can you capture the creative spirit in movement and create beautiful things ”.

He who dives into the journey of seeing must always have the doors of perception open. He knows that, in the face of the eternal, he needs to forget himself. Creation is what matters, a fundamental gesture, a path of knowledge, a powerful weapon for finding the world.

The creative act is continuous and endless. The ever-renewed practice of contemplating humanizes the vision, cancels out truths, allows for inventiveness, enhances the inner self.

The reward is the mystical experimentation of the encounter with beauty. The photographer feels, in this fleeting moment, something similar to the Hindu “satori”, a moment of revelation, an indefinite and wonderful pleasure.

In this respectful relationship with himself, the photographer creates something original and meaningful, with spontaneity and fluency. The observer is confused with the observed thing, the emptiness is established. What was contained pulsates again, what was once foreboding is now realization. The purity of his dialogue tells him that, in fact, the more photos he takes, the more dust he takes out of his eyes, he will continue to walk alone with his camera. But he also knows that he is learning another, far greater art: the art of being nothing, of being nothing more than nothing, of dissolving himself in the void between heaven and earth ”.

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