Field Notes








Young man walks upside down on Wichubwala island in autonomous Kuna Yala territory (off the coast of Panama) in 2010.

By Orin Langelle 17 Feb, 2024
Leoardo Guajardo's house was saved from the fire, but all the crops and fruit trees were lost - Investigations into the 2017 fires uncovered that the pine plantations were infested by a borer wasp. The insect burrowed into the trees, damaging them and causing their commercial value to decrease. The logging industry did not have an insurance policy against insect infestations, but it did have insurance against fires. Many in the communities believe the fires were intentionally set by the timber companies to claim the insurance. Photo Credit: Orin Langelle 2024 photo essay redux of Chile’s 2017 wildfires When wildfires broke out in Chile this month, I began a redux of my previously published photo essay about Chile’s 2017 wildfires – the worst in the country’s history. In the years since, more severe wildfires have scarred the landscape, with 2024’s fires the deadliest on record. Media blames the fires on climate change, El Niño, higher temperatures, strong winds and drought. While true, another major contributing factor to the wildfire disasters is widespread plantations of highly combustible pine and eucalyptus trees. From my Photographer’s Statement in the 2017 photo essay: An international delegation from the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees arrived in Santiago, Chile, in March 2017, to document the social and environmental impacts of the forestry industry in the country, as well as its links with recent forest fires, which were the worst in Chile's history. The fires began in January 2017. It is estimated that eleven people died, 1,500 homes were destroyed, thousands of people displaced, and over 500,000 hectares decimated. The Latin American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts ObservatorioLatinoamericano de Conflictas Ambientales – OLCA sponsored the delegation. Another sponsor of the delegation was Global Justice Ecology Project. I accompanied the delegation as a photojournalist and participant. To see Chile's Wildfires: Another Pinochet Legacy continue to Global Justice Ecology Project's page dedicated to the photo essay or Social Documentary Network .
By Orin Langelle 24 Jan, 2024
Following a permitted mass-march on November 20, 2003, police clashed with protesters on the streets of Miami. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets, electronic tasers and other less-lethal weapons to attack the protesters. Many protesters and bystanders were injured. An estimated 20,000 or more marched that day in Miami against the FTAA. Trade ministers from 34 countries had come there to negotiate a new neoliberal trade agreement that would stretch from Alaska to Chile encompassing all of the Americas, except Cuba. The negotiations collapsed and the FTAA failed. Photo Credit: Orin Langelle Toward Freedom I went to our PO Box the other day and received the commemorative issue of Toward Freedom (TF) magazine. TF officially stopped publishing the magazine after a 70 year run. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened this last TF and saw I was one of the contributors who was featured, and two of my photos were published. One of them was this FTAA photo (pg. 49). I was honored to be included with the friends and colleagues I worked with over the years including Robin Lloyd, Greg Guma, Ben Dangl, Charlotte Dennett and many more. I photographed two covers and wrote several articles for TF on Nicaragua, the World Trade Organization, Free Trade Area of the Americas, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It’s sad to see Toward Freedom stop publishing. But the struggle continues. Toward Freedom released this volume of essays by past writers, editors and board members at an event celebrating its 71 years of publication during the Vermont Film Festival in Burlington, VT on Saturday, October 28, 2023. Click here to download the Toward Freedom Commemorative Book. Portraits of Struggle My new photography book Portraits of Struggle will be released soon! It highlights some of my best work from 1972 - 2023 on six continents. For more information, please visit Portraits of Struggle
Mother looks into the camera with a child suckling at her breast
By Orin Langelle 03 Jan, 2024
In the midst of a revolution, life goes on. Mother and child – San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico (1999) Photo: Orin Langelle Defiance In 2018, my friend, colleague and poet, Alexis Latham invited me to publish a photo essay in ABOUT PLACE JOURNAL, a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society. My photo essay, Remembering Examples: Three Decades of Resistance in Chiapas, Mexico, was published in VOLUME V. ISSUE II in October of that year. On New Year's Day 2024, the resistance in Chiapas entered its fourth decade. On New Year’s Day 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, the mostly Indigenous Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) rose up against it for being “a death sentence for the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico” due to its elimination of Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution. Article 27 guaranteed people rights to communal ejido lands in Mexico. It was an outcome of the revolution led by Emiliano Zapata–from whom the Zapatistas took their name–in the early part of the 20th century. But in order for NAFTA – the free trade agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico– to be passed, Article 27 had to be eliminated. Its eradication was accomplished by Edward Krobaker, the Forestry Division Vice President and later CEO of International Paper. Many of Mexico’s forests were on ejido lands, which meant they could not easily be obtained or controlled by multinational corporations such as IP. In defiance of the Mexican government and NAFTA, the Zapatistas took over government buildings, freed prisoners from jail, and engaged the Mexican army in brief combat. The Zapatistas declared their autonomy which continues today. That uprising inspired people from around the world in the early global justice movement. In November of 1999, protesters shut down the World Trade Organization's meeting in Seattle, WA. It was dubbed the "Battle of Seattle." I've been fortunate to travel to Chiapas over the last three decades behind the Mexican military lines to visit the people and document their resistance. Some of my photos from Chiapas are in my forthcoming book called Portraits of Struggle. Find out more about the book and how to order it at PortraitsOfStruggle.org And to view my photo essay in the ABOUT PLACE JOURNAL please click on Remembering Examples: Three Decades of Resistance in Chiapas, Mexico
By Orin Langelle 21 Dec, 2023
Indigenous Mapuche Protest, Temuco, Chile (2019) Mapuche women lead a march in Temuco, Chile, to oppose a new trash incinerator on their traditional territory. Photo credit: Langelle Photography December 2023 Update - Incinerator Defeated! In 2019, when the photograph shown above was taken, the Mapuche community Lautaro was threatened by plans to construct a toxic waste-to-energy incinerator claiming to produce “clean, renewable energy” in a town already impacted by pollution from a biomass burning plant. This march was held in the rain on the last day of a public comment period to deliver thousands of comments against the project. On December 20, 2023 the incinerator was defeated. This great news was just received from my friend, colleague and GJEP board member, Alejandra Parra. Parra is a co-founder of RADA (Red de Acción Por Los Derechos Ambientales – Environmental Rights Action Network). WTE Araucanía is a “Waste To Energy” trash incinerator that would have polluted surrounding Mapuche communities and the environment. These so-called “Green incinerators” are another false solution to climate change. The photo is part of a collection in my brand new book called Portraits of Struggle. Find out more about the book and how to order it at PortraitsOfStruggle.org See more about this victory in the article RADA and the Mapuche communities of Lautaro celebrate a new victory against WTE Araucanía . The third photograph in the article includes Alejandra Parra (far left).
Facing a group of WTO protesters  standing behind  and pulling down a partially torn down fence.
By Orin Langelle 30 Nov, 2023
Caption: Cancún, Mexico: Protesters tear down sections of wire barricades at the World Trade Organization (WTO) summit in Cancún, Mexico. Moments earlier a South Korean farmer, Lee Kyoung Hae, 56 years old and father of two, committed suicide by plunging a knife into his heart while atop of one of the wire barricades. His action called attention to the plight of many farmers across the world who are unable to make a living due to the WTO’s unjust trade rules. (September 2003) Photo: Langelle The Battle of Seattle Today, November 30th, marks 24 years since the historic day when more than 50,000 activists representing a wide diversity of struggles and movements converged on Seattle, Washington (US) where they successfully blockaded the city and shut down the Ministerial Meetings of the World Trade Organization. It became known as the Battle of Seattle. NAFTA "a death sentence for the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico" I was not in Seattle that day, I was behind rebel lines in Chiapas, Mexico leading a delegation in solidarity with the Indigenous Zapatistas, who had risen up on January 1st 1994 - the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect - calling NAFTA "a death sentence for the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico." The uprising of the Zapatistas, which succeeded against all odds in creating an autonomous zone for Indigenous Peoples in much of Chiapas, Mexico is considered to be one of the great inspirations to the global justice movement that made its global mark on November 30, 1999 in Seattle, but went on for many more years. “The WTO Kills Farmers” Fast forward 4 years. I had just co-founded Global Justice Ecology Project, and one of our first actions as a new organization was to attend mass-demonstrations against the WTO in Cancún, Mexico. It was here that I shot this photo of outraged activists ripping down the security fence protecting the WTO meetings, shortly after the devastating suicide of farmer Lee Kyung-Hae atop the fence. The talks were overshadowed by this act and the slogan, “The WTO Kills Farmers.” Ultimately, the talks collapsed. The failure of the Cancún WTO meetings was viewed as a victory for developing countries including Brazil, India, China, South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and other nations. Mass-protests rebelling against Free Trade Neoliberalism and corporate globalization continued for several more years. This fall marks the 20th Anniversary of the founding of Global Justice Ecology Project. Portraits of Struggle: My New Book The above photo is part of my new photo book called "Portraits of Struggle" to be released at the end of this year. The book includes photos from 1972 to 2023 spanning six continents. For information about ordering the book, please email anne [at] globaljusticeecology.org
Photographer Orin Langelle looks at the camera, standing on a dirt road winding through a forest
By Orin Langelle 22 Nov, 2023
Caption: Orin Langelle stands in a new road being constructed through Quilombola territory in Brazil. The road is designed to ease transport of timber to the Suzano pulp and paper mill in Espirito Santo. Large industrial eucalyptus plantations, some of which were illegally planted on Quilombola lands, are the source of the wood. Langelle was on a fact-finding trip with the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees in the spring of 2023. Photo: Taylor / GJEP. I've taken photos in quite a few places in the world where certain people, corporations, governments (or a combination of the three) didn't want me to. While I knew this, I still took the photographs. Sometimes under threat or worse. And I've been arrested and jailed, had my film confiscated. All of this because I felt that what I was documenting was important enough that other people needed to see it too. I intend to continue to do that. Journalists risk their lives to report the truth, not be propaganda machines. Every day, journalists face harassment, imprisonment, violence, or death simply for doing their jobs. And with the world spinning out of control, the outlook for journalists seems to get bleaker and bleaker. Regarding the Israel-Gaza War the Committee to Protect Journalists said today, " CPJ is investigating all reports of journalists and media workers killed, injured, or missing in the war, which has led to the deadliest month for journalists since CPJ began gathering data in 1992. As of November 22, CPJ’s preliminary investigations showed at least 53 journalists and media workers were among the more than 15,000 killed since the war began on October 7—with over 14,000 Palestinian deaths in Gaza and the West Bank and 1,200 deaths in Israel." Beyond those killed, 11 journalists were reported injured. 3 journalists were reported missing. 18 journalists were reported arrested. There have also been multiple assaults, threats, cyberattacks, censorship, and the killings of journalists' family members. Earlier this year, before the Israel-Gaza war began, the CPJ reported , " The year 2022 was deadly for members of the press. At least 67 journalists and media workers were killed during the year–the highest number since 2018 and an almost 50% increase from 2021...The rise was driven by a high number of journalist deaths covering the Ukraine war and a sharp rise in killings in Latin America." This is an outrage and a tragedy. Journalists must be protected as the truth today is more important than ever. For more please, see Democracy Now!'s interview with Sherif Mansour, CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator. Late this year, I will be publishing Portraits of Struggle, a selection of photographs representing struggles and protests that I have witnessed spanning five decades and six continents. For more information on the book, send an email to anne [at] globaljusticecology [dot] org.
By Orin Langelle 14 Nov, 2023
Ayoreo mother with child, Detention Camp in Campo Lorro, Paraguay (2009) Photo: Orin Langelle/GJEP Urgent action needed to help save the Ayoreo's last forest ( sign on here ) I visited and photographed the Ayoreo indigenous community of Campo Lorro (Parrot Field) in the Gran Chaco region of Paraguay in early 2009. The photos in this essay document a community and people struggling for survival. I traveled with Dr. Miguel Lovera, part of the Ayoreo support group Iniciativa Amotocodie. The Chaco forest is one of the fastest disappearing forests on the planet. I was invited by the Ayoreo people who live in Campo Lorro to take photographs in a project called “Sharing the Eye.” An elder leader of the community walked with me through their lands, village, houses and workplaces–sharing his vision with me, which I recorded with my camera. Today GJEP was contacted by our colleagues in Survival International about the serious situation that is happening: "Members of the tribe, the Ayoreo, who were forced out of the forest in recent decades, are now suffering repeated waves of disease. Many have died. They do not want their relatives still in the forest to suffer the same fate. The uncontacted Ayoreo – who avoid contact with outsiders – live in an island of forest, surrounded by vast cattle ranches and farmland where their forest once stood. Contacted Ayoreo, supported by local allies and Survival, submitted a formal land claim to the Paraguayan government in 1993. After thirty years, only some disconnected parts of the area have been returned to the Ayoreo: the authorities should have officially protected and titled all of it years ago. While they’ve delayed, huge areas have been destroyed." Please Sign on HERE and Stand with the Ayoreo - Save the Ayoreo's Last Forest To see my photo essay from Campo Lorro, please go to: “Sharing the Eye” A Day in an Ayoreo Displacement Camp in Paraguay's Chaco Eye
A protester holding a sign
By Orin Langelle 08 Nov, 2023
Washington, DC: This photo was taken during the first anti-war march in the U.S. Capital, September 29, 2001, eighteen days after the September 11th attacks in New York City. The series of coordinated attacks against the U.S. killed more than 3000 people at the World Trade Center. I remember being in the streets in the anti-war march taking photographs. I think everyone in the streets was nervous. War and revenge was the feeling by most of the people in the U.S. My photo is how I remember that day and, unfortunately, its message is timeless. Photo: Orin Langelle The photo War is Terrorism Magnified A Hundred X , is a quote by Howard Zinn , author of the seminal history book A People's History of the United States. The quote comes from Zinn's experiences as a bombardier at the end of World War II. About which, Zinn said: "The thing about being in the Air Force and dropping bombs from 35,000 feet is that you don’t see anybody, human beings, you don’t hear screams, see blood, see mangled bodies. I understand very well how atrocities are committed in modern warfare, from a distance. So there I was doing these things. ... [The bombing raid I took part in] epitomized the stupidity of modern warfare and how the momentum of military machines carries armies on to do the most atrocious things that any rational person sitting down for five minutes and thinking about it would stop immediately. "
By Orin Langelle 19 Oct, 2023
This morning when I looked at the latest information on journalists killed covering the Israel-Gaza war, the number was 12. As I write this in the afternoon the total is at least 21. I have been in conflict zones a few times before and I was aware of the risk I was taking, as journalists do. The worst that happened to me was a Mexican army sergeant sticking a submachine in my gut. I was returning from a village deep in the Lacandon jungle where a GJEP team was documenting a community resisting forced relocation for a forest carbon offset project. I was fortunate, the soldier's act was meant to intimidate, not kill. Many journalists are not so lucky. -- Orin Langelle. 19 October 2023. Photo: GJEP Photo Journalist death toll rises in Israel-Gaza war The followin g is from the Committee to Protect Journalists : The Israel-Gaza conflict has taken a severe toll on journalists since Hamas launched its unprecedented attack against Israel on October 7 and Israel declared war on the militant Palestinian group, launching air strikes and ground raids on the blockaded Gaza Strip. The conflict has since widened to neighboring Lebanon. As of October 19, at least 21 journalists were among the more than 4,000 dead on both sides since the war began on October 7. “CPJ emphasizes that journalists are civilians doing important work during times of crisis and must not be targeted by warring parties,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Millions across the world are counting on reporters in the region to provide accurate information about the conflict. Journalists, like all civilians, must be respected and protected.” The list published here includes names based on information obtained from CPJ’s sources in the region and media reports. ___ Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, was interviewed this morning by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! -----
By Orin Langelle 09 Oct, 2023
Indigenous man wears a gag that reads UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) in protest of the UN's treatment of Indigenous Peoples. Bali, Indonesia (2007) Photo: Orin Langelle I attended UN Climate Conferences (known as COPs) from 2004 to 2011. This photo at a protest held by the Indigenous Peoples delegation after UN security forcibly excluded them from a meeting with the UN Executive Secretary. The meeting was organized to talk about the new scheme that was targeting forests on Indigenous Peoples lands for use as carbon offsets–offsets that would enable companies like Chevron to keep polluting and damaging communities and the climate. The Indigenous delegation organized this protest spontaneously and I used my press accreditation to go into the media room to inform the media that the protest was occurring. It was covered by the media globally, including an AP photo that showed up in over 100 newspapers. I quit going to the Climate COPs after 2011. They had, from the beginning, been nothing more than trade shows and public theater, with countries pledging to talk about reducing emissions at some point in the future. I quit when it became clear that this was never going to change and that real organizing on climate change needed to ha ppen on the outside of these farcical events. The upcoming UN Climate COP, incidentally, will be held this December 2023 in the United Arab Emirates and the President of the COP will be Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC Group).
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