The Worship of Nature

North American photographer Minor White, a recognized master photographer known for seeking his “self-discovery through the camera,” stated that landscape photography actually involves the “inner landscape.” Valdir Cruz’s gaze definitively does not “take photographs,” as is commonly said. With great mastery, he constructs the photograph that has already been idealized in his subjectivity. In his approach to nature, his gaze is divided and multiplied in order to abstract, to seek the desired image and to express his animus.

With this way of transcending the prosaic – a unique magic of his – he photographed the region of Bonito, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul [MS], Brazil, showing its charms and mysteries, its waters, caves, and flora, in an uncommon way expressed with rare wisdom. His sensitive gaze takes in the shapes, lighting, shadows and all the “photographable” syntagmas, in order to determine the precise technical moment of the “click” that will gather the ripened fruit of his inner expectation, no matter how much time is required to achieve his goal.

Camera in hand, he has already journeyed to an impressive range of territories: with all humility, like a servant to the nature of Terra Brasilis, he has focused his lenses on Amazônia, the indigenous Yanomani tribes; the fabulous waters of the Iguaçu and Paraná rivers, and various waterfalls of that region; after this, on the trees of our beloved São Paulo. And now, in this new work, he has depicted the exuberance and natural beauty of Bonito, MS.

He seeks reality – a constant in his compendium of technical and creative genius – in abstract and mimetic forms: he shows the playful, the telluric, the dramatic. He projects feeling and emotion even into the stones, using his camera to subtract and add movement, form and light in order to convey the aesthetic, the ethical, the unusual... and life itself.

Through their words, paints and forms, artists who love this region reflect how striking its remarkable nature is to human sensitivity, expressing themselves most notably through poetry and the visual arts. Because they have assimilated the natural world, possessing nature in their inner being, poets from Mato Grosso, north and south, corroborate with the same thematics presented by our photographer Valdir Cruz. Otherwise we would not have Dom Francisco de Aquino Corrêa, the Prince of Poets, passionately referring to the nature of our land (then southern Mato Grosso), in the first decades of the 20th century: “There, laughing at the all-blue sky/ Above such violet and tender lands/ As though there had passed through here/ An alluvium of rose petals...” Or the words of Manoel de Barros, in Tratado das Grandezas do Ínfimo: “Poetry is when the afternoon is suitable to the dahlias. It’s when the day sleeps early beside a sparrow. When man makes his first lizard. It’s when a clover takes over the night and a frog swallows the light of dawn.” For her part, the southern Mato Grosso poet Dora Ribeiro: “to whence goes the landscape of my thirst/ when you devour my fires that are only questions and pure absences/ to whence do the waters of your underground winters flow/ which are birds merely empty/ to whence do our bodies go separated from the music of your time/ to whence are we led by the fossil tree/ that you hide in your silence...”

I myself penned: “To contemplate nature/ to hear the noise of the silence that lightly blows/ to probe the trill of the birds/ to feel the coolness of the evening/ the drops of rain on one’s face and the swaying of the branches on the porch...” And, concerning the Blue Lake Cave in Bonito, a theme of our photographic artist: “Swim in the Blue Lake?! Is it possible to be a bird and fish at the same time/ with all the humanities together?...”

This is what the photographs of this album do: bring the poetry onto the retina, depicting the lovely landscape of Bonito, MS, paraphrasing the ineffable, the hidden forms, the stones submersed in lakes and rivers, enveloped in its waterfalls, in the trees, caves, springs, hillsides and abysses. The images possess a fervor of the search for a loved one, of a monk devoted to the infinite mystery of the beautiful; a martyr of the desires and wishes, when it comes to photographing even the abyssal abyss of Bonito, one of the first records of its depths. The photographer follows in the steps of Poverello de Assis in contemplating nature and recording it in a way surprisingly different from the usual. With his sensitivity, Valdir Cruz shows the magic of the “unseeing things,” and through the power of his gaze and his technical resources, he plays the creative role of a landscaper of the soul.

Contemplative, he goes further: he is penitent when he shows the wounds and iniquities of the predatory process, which are found in all the most out-of-the-way places. By every means, his images reveal the sublime dialectics that man engages in or seeks to engage in with the natural environment – as a part of himself in a mimetic process, making the beauty and the art emerge in the midst of a teeming nature.

For everything that this fabulous book shows us, I want to register here my very humble worship of the work of the landscape artist manifested in Valdir Cruz’s gaze. We are grateful to him for discovering not only the beloved defender, our Guardian and “Guardian Angel of the Conservationists,” but also the “Man of Conservationism”: the terror of the enemies of the Faith; the Father of the machine that constructs images; the lens of victorious battles hanging from a magic belt.

The expressiveness of art has been joined with the expressiveness of the image, with which the hand of artifice has consecrated the all-powerful gaze, transforming the figure of the Guardian Angel into a real temporality, for him to reign in all the parts of this powerful nature, and through other lenses to continue as the faithful benefactor of peace and the harmonious nature of Bonito, MS.

This magical mimetic and anthropomorphic figure of Valdir Cruz’s photography, the “Guardian Angel of Bonito” pulled from the bottom of the abyss, represents a divine/human greatness. Divine by creation and by the art that models him; human because he requires a cooperation between nature and man, a generous and determined effort in the heroic and continuous struggle for preservation, in order to exist.

This Angel is revealed as sublime, above the human sciences because he was safeguarded in the unfathomable depths and won over the world with a strong and tender heart, with an ardent love of the good and a burning hatred of evil. He is an illustrious benefactor of humankind, for knowing and having visited both heaven and earth.

For this very reason, he has wings to fly far and to instill goodness in the most far-flung places of the festive nature. He is playful, happy and dramatic, and at the same time celebrates sculpture, being destined to give pleasure to man, especially to the brave traveler in the realms of art and the depths of the Earth. He is austere for his sincere ways, and for the seriousness of his preservation. He is penitent for the suffering of nature when it is harmed by the predatory process.

This is the recompense that Valdir Cruz deserves, for the love and zeal he has demonstrated in recording these images of Bonito’s multifaceted nature, receiving the respect and confidence that is to come, when a senile and perishable earthly royalty is exchanged for an immortal one wherein live millions of souls, pulled from the bottom of the abyss, like one of the instruments of harmony in nature.

In these days when we are celebrating the first signs of a new era that is to come, we witness the creation of what is yet today the object of our admiration, because it was in this abyssal place that we saw the first lights of victory for the inestimable work of environmental conservation, shared by so many other beings that have walked this painstaking path toward perfection.

Our blessed land called Bonito, in Mato Grosso do Sul, was celebrated on a 16th-century map as “Brazil’s Remotest Frontier” Why this terminology of the past? If not to preserve and to determine the future? With the aim of being able to show the world what the world needs today, that is, the greatest trophy of the Globe: a preserved nature!

The sensitive souls are and will always be inimitable Guardians of nature... These include the poets, the artists who are to be found in each and every place, for their sensitivity and determination in knowing, feeling and preserving.

That’s it! For anyone who has visited this place and knows it, or those who will visit it in the future, Bonito is matchless in terms of its unparalleled natural beauty. Everything leads to Bonito! Its natural untamed wilderness; its mountain range called “Serra da Bodoquena,” whose incomparably beautiful vegetation is part of the Atlantic Forest even though it is far from the sea; the vigor of its waters and waterfalls and the metaphoric transparency of its rivers, its fast and celebrated travertines (above-ground calcium formations); its trees and groves, it springs, its streams that emerge from the ground only to suddenly disappear into it, the mysterious calcium limestone formations of the Guarany Aquifer – the world’s largest underground reservoir, below our lands; its vigorous pantanal wildlife. Elements brought together in this book that led the photographer on a magical flight.

In the words of the great master of photography Minor White, “the photographer projects himself into everything he sees, identifying himself with everything in order to know it and to feel it better.” This is how Valdir Cruz sees things, the result being these gala photographs, like a waterfall cascading from the heights to translate and convey a vibrant euphoria to everyone – whether from the north or south of Mato Grosso, the pantanals, Portugal, France, Italy, North America, or China – they can all can shout happily: Long live Brazil! Long live Mato Grosso do Sul! Long live Bonito!

For all the beauty it has, for its sacredness and the vigor it holds for man and for all living creatures, here’s to a long life for the fantastic and beautiful simplicity of the nature of my earth. All the best to her, and every praise to a life that can reproduce itself in more life!

Lélia Rita Euterpe de Figueiredo Ribeiro
Campo Grande, MS, 29 May 2010

INo Tratado das Grandezas do Ínfimo, Editora Record, São Paulo, 2001.
In: Bicho do Mato – poemas reunidos, Editora 7 Letras, Rio de Janeiro, 2000.
In: Amor em todos os Quadrantes, publication by the author, MS, 1977.
In: Estação Provisória, Edição Massao Ohno, São Paulo, 1983.
Poverello de Assis – another name for Saint Francis of Assis (1182–1226), one of the world’s most popular saints, who wielded enormous influence in the civil and ecclesiastical history of his time.
Serra da Bodoquena – situated on the southeast corner of the Pantanal Complex, it is one of the most important ecosystems in the region. Comprising the cities of Bonito, Jardim and Bodoquena, it is home to the Serra da Bodoquena National Park, created in 2000, with an area of 294 square miles.
The Atlantic Forest is a biome present in a great part of the Brazilian territory, and taking in parts of Paraguay and Argentina. The Atlantic Forest ecosystem is characterized by perennial large-leafed trees, rising to more than 30 meters in height. It should not be confused with the Amazon Forest, another biome present in South America.
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