Inside the Amazon: A Photographer’s Story | Nat Geo Live


( instrumental music )One of the things I like to
do when I’m in the Amazon
is just bust all the myths.I don’t want all this nonsensethis romantic image we
have of indigenous people.
They’re just people.You know, the reason
I like these pictures because
we’ve… we always go
and look at these places
to see how different we are andwhat I… gets me about these…
those two pictures
actually we realize
how similar we are.
You know,
my kids do stuff like this.
( audience applause )Manú National Park is in
the Peruvian Amazon, okay.
It’s the far west side
of the Amazon, alright.
At the bottom of…
of the Andes.
As national parks go,
it’s pretty big. It’s 17,000 square kilometers. It’s twice the size of
Yellowstone National Park.What makes Manú special isit has the highest diversity of
life of anywhere in the world.
You’re dealing with a place with
1,307 ( laughs ) known species of butterfly. That’s six percent of
the world’s total.It has 15 species of monkey.Ten percent of all the
bird species in the world
live in Manú National Park.There’s more tree species
in a single hectare than the whole of North America.You know, this is just, it’s
just nuts, the diversity here.
There’s an undescribed species
of Poison Dart frogs called SP3.
It hasn’t got a name yet.
It’s only just been discovered.
A friend of mine,a Peruvian Herpetologist
found it.
Who knows how many species. Manú has got more
reptiles and amphibians than anywhere else in the world.There’s a giant otter.A six foot long, eat
eight pounds of fish a day.
Eats Piranhas.You know, how bad-ass have you
gotta be to eat Piranhas. – I’ve eaten Piranhas, you know.
– ( audience laughter ) So, that doesn’t mean I’m badass
because I’ve eaten Piranhas. But, they are. Now, people say to me “Oh, you know, I don’t wanna
go to the rainforest. I’m scared of snakes and
like, biting flies.” And I always lie to them and
say, “Oh, you don’t need to be.” Um… these things scare
the crap out of me. – ( Charlie laughs )
– ( audience laughter ) This is a
Two Striped Forest Pit Viper. It’s perfectly camouflaged,
as you can see from the color of
the background. It’s highly hemotoxic
and cytotoxic and it hangs at
around neck height. ( Charlie laughs ) What have you got
to worry about? ( audience laughter ) And I saw…
I photographed this snake. I’d been walking within
18 inches of that snake for about half an hour,
setting a camera trap up backwards and forwards, back… And then, my friend Lex just suddenly freaked
and just shouted. And they call them
‘loro machaco’ it’s the local name. Alright, and our hearts
were going crazy because we’d just been– And then, so every
time we went near it it would contract,
ready to strike. And it can almost strike
it’s body length. You know, if that thing gets you you’re gonna be dead
in 25 minutes.This is called a
Cock-of-the-rock.
This is a supercool bird.
I love these birds.
If you can’t work it out…( audience laughter ) You can, look, you can just see the bottom of it’s
beak poking out. Yeah? Maybe not. Okay. ( laughter ) So these… so, one of the
reasons Manú is so diverse is a bit of a cheat because it actually
starts at high altitude. So, the Park starts
right up in the Andes and it goes right down
to lowland rainforest. And this, and in that process
it goes through Cloud Forest which is really diverse and,
you know one of the least studied regions
of the tropics, actually.That is an Ocelot, one of
seven species of cat in Manú.
I think, I took
nine camera traps
for three months
and got one photo.
( Charlie laughs ) I’m not… clearly
not doing very well.Anyway, so, these are,
I guess what you imagine
when you think of
people of the forest.
These are, I guess what,
slightly mis-correctly termed
‘Uncontacted
Mashco-Piro Indians’
Uncontacted in the sense,
that they have almost no contact with modern
western civilization. I took this image, traveling
up through the southern southern part of Manú
on a boat one day and a group of these women were
washing a baby in the river. Most of them vanished into the
forest and you know, we… You’re not allowed to stop,
so we carried the boat on. You’re not allowed to
communicate with them you’re certainly not allowed
to go and talk to them or… or, you know, get close to them. Because we could very
easily give them flu virus and it could wipe out
their entire population. This particular group
are one of– They think,
around 800 uncontacted people living in Manú at the moment. They’ve been more visible and…
since about 2011. Coming out onto the… you know an area on the
southern end of Manú. They’ve killed two people. So, there’s a slow process to
come into contact with them.Last summer, I went into Manúto shoot a story
for the magazine.
I went to live with the
Machiguenga people.
And they’re the most,
sort of numerous of indigenous people
that live in Manú. These people are
hunter-gatherers still.I took this photo from a plane.This is what you’d call
a first contact hut.
These people are living inthe early stages of contact
with the outside world.
So, they’re very remote. I think this was 23 miles by
plane from the nearest village. These people are,
they’re really going to only see people from that
village, maybe once a year. Maybe, do a bit of trading. And then I went to stay in
a very remote community in the middle of Manú which no one’s allowed
into, really. You have to get
special permissions.I met this family.These people were about
two weeks in contact.
They’d come down from the
head waters of the Manú river.
And these people have
always just lived
very isolated in a
tiny community.
They’ve never been to the
big community village called Yomibato, where I was. This was their first trip there. So, the villagers always…
they, you know referred to them as the
uncontacted people. And they’d come there and
they’d get… machetes You know, stone,
uh, sorry, metal tools which is the most important
thing in the world to them. So, it was really interesting meeting them and
photographing them. And as a photographer,
you wanna go and hang out and shoot people as they are,
shoot them relaxing and really– You wanna be invisible. But, with these guys,
that was impossible. I said to them, “Have you ever
seen a white guy before?” They said, “We’ve never seen a
non-Machiguenga Indian before.” They didn’t change their
expression at all for the entire time I was there. They just stared and… ( Charlie grunting ) They were
totally underwhelmed by the entire experience
as well. Here I was thinking,
“Oh, this is amazing!” ( Charlie grunting ) ( audience laughter )So I posed them.
You know, arrange them
and try and photograph them.Because it was all I
could do with them.
But, I kind of like the
portraits we were getting
and I lived in the community.
One of the things I like to do
when I’m in the Amazon is
just bust all the myths. I don’t want all this nonsense. This romantic image we
have of indigenous people. They’re just people. And their culture is fascinating
and everything else… But, they are just people and we
tend to over blow that a bit.I went on the school
swimming lesson.
And the teacher
took all the kids
she put like, 30 kids in a boat.She directed everyone with
this enormous carving knife. She crossed the river,
got out of the boat and then just buggered off
into the forest on her own to cut guavas or something and all the kids
just went swimming. That was the swimming lesson. I thought this is the
way to live, isn’t it.This is Yoina.Every day, she would
walk past our camp
with her Saddleback Tamarinwhich is that
gremlin on her head.
And that was her toy, and
she’d take it swimming and it…
it just absolutely hated water. ( audience laughter ) It was just this protracted
awful experience for it going in the water. And all it wants to do is
get onto her head. So, I said, “Can I take your
picture?” “If you want.” She was so like…
you know, whatever. So for three days, I just… I took every day that Yoina
went swimming I’d take this picture of her
with this thing on her head. This is eventually
what happened. You know, and her
story is very sad. I don’t wanna bring a
downer on it, but I’ll tell you her story. After this picture was taken the monkey died when a pot
of boiling water fell on it. Her mum died in childbirth. She now, wanders
around with her sister who is called Grace Kelly.
I have no idea why. And she’s… you can
see in this picture she’s got so many head lice so
she shaved all her head off. So, you know, just in a few
months since I took this picture her entire life and world
has completely changed. – ( audience laughter )
– ( Charlie laughs )I wanted to photograph
the education system.
You know,
this was a story about
how an indigenous group of
people live in a national park.
Well, they have
healthcare, education
everything they should have.So, I wanted to photograph that. And this photo and
this picture as well.You know, the reason
I like these pictures, because
we’ve… we always kind of
look at these places
to see how different we are.And what gets me about
those two pictures is
actually, you realize
how similar we are.
You know my kids do
stuff like this.This is the wisest
man I’ve ever met.
He’s called Don Alberto.
He’s a shaman
and he blew my head off withthe most powerful hallucinogen,
known to man.
Which is probably why I’m grinning so much
in that picture. ( audience laughter ) What I didn’t have is any form of spiritual
connection with the rainforest because I don’t have a spiritual
connection with anything. I’m the least spiritual
person in the world. So, I thought, alright,
I’ll be open-minded. Blow my head off,
let’s see where we go with this.And he did.Charlie:According to western
science Ayahuasca activates
parahippocampal areas
of the brain
that are involved in
processing emotion and memory.
Don Alberto describeshow forest spirits will
talk to Charlie in a dream
and show him his true path.( Don Alberto chanting ) Charlie:Snakes, wasps,
spiders, crocodiles.
There were a lot of
animals in the visions.
But the only ones
giving me messages
were actually the
rainforest animals.
( Don Alberto chanting ) Charlie:Whatever he did,
it worked. It really worked.
What I wanted do,
was go on a journey
to discover more
about the forest.
And irritatingly,
it was about me.
( Don Alberto chanting )The understanding of myself andbeing given this understanding
by the creatures of the forest
was the most enlightening
and profound experience
I’ve ever had.It absolutely blew me away.So then, you know, a few
years later, do I feel the same? No, I just feel more
confused about spirituality than I was before. But, I did see
the forest spirits… in my… in my visions. You know, I was out
for three hours. I saw a world made of
toffee Lego, at one point. I saw all kinds of, I
had a whole world of nice frogs on that side and
nasty frogs on that side. ( audience laughter ) I was kind of rolling a bit
and then I was… They were filming me, as you saw
and they’d talk to me like… because you’re sort of… you
have a conscious level as well. So, I was talking and I was
watching these blue words coming out of my mouth
and going into the lens. And at one point, I was flying
over the Shetland Islands looking down on it.
It was crazy. One thing about Ayahuasca, that
drug, I gotta tell you, right. It’s made out of a vine. They pound this vine and
they mix it with a leaf. Right, and if you just… and you boil it for like,
a day, this pounded vine. And if you drink it,
it does nothing. You have to mix it with a
specific species of leaf in order for your body
to really metabolize and for it to do its thing. Well, that’s great, isn’t it! There’s 17,000 species
of wooded plant there. Now, how did they
figure that out? That always just blows my mind.
How did they figure it? Pound that up,
boil it for a day… You know,
they didn’t have Jamie Oliver or the Barefoot Contessa,
do they? Put those leaves in it,
mix it up it’s gonna blow your head off. Mind blowing.

23 Replies to “Inside the Amazon: A Photographer’s Story | Nat Geo Live”

  1. Why the hell we are trading, indoctrinating, and providing "medical" for these people when they're supposed to be left alone. At least he learned something from his iowaska trip.

  2. A real Sha-man. You are so lucky to have gotten a Spiritual connection like that. They have True Remedies of Life that many will never understand. The Amazon is Deadly & Powerful & Spiritual All in One! Amen

  3. things like ayahuasca always made me want to travel the world. what culture they have in the other part of the world is amazing.

  4. Is it weird that I liked him better when I had only seen his pictures and read his work? That's why they say that you should never meet your heroes

  5. i cant explain it but this guy seems so unauthentic that i cant dislike him and his approach more.

  6. What can you say about Charlie Hamilton James, apart from the fact that he's everything that's obnoxious about privileged, entitled and self-obsessed middle-class British men, who go around the world promoting themselves as saviours of the planet?

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