Mauricio Lima
SERVI Majid family members nurse their children in a wheat field in Horgos, near the Hungarian border - Photo: Maurício Lima

By: Simonetta Persichetti

In its centenary year, the Pulitzer Prize has, among its winners, the Brazilian photographer Mauricio Lima, a freelancer for the The New York Times, for covering the refugee crisis in Europe. This is the first time in the history of the award that a Brazilian has received the distinction. Mauricio Lima was the winner in the Breaking News Photography category, with Russian Sergey Ponomarev, American Tyler Hicks and German Daniel Etter, for the series Exodus The four also received, for the same series, The John Faber Award from the Overseas Press Club of America.

Mauricio Lima
DISPOSAL Life jackets and rubber rafts discarded by migrants who managed to reach Greece by sea – Photo: Mauricio Lima

The Pulitzer was created by the work and desire of American journalist Joseph Pulitzer, who believed in journalism. In good journalism. Before his death in 1911, he made a cash donation to Columbia University in New York, which was used to open the Journalism course, which opened the following year, and for the prize – the first in 1917. From then on, each year journalists and writers are recognized for their work.

The Pulitzer's motto was: "Light up the dark places and, with a deep sense of responsibility, interpret these difficult times." It is with this spirit that the North American press annually rewards works of excellence that make a difference in the world.

At 40 years old, Mauricio Lima is a humanist and independent professional. Graduated in Social Communication from PUC in São Paulo, he started photographing sports in 1999. Then he was invited to join the France Press agency, where he remained until 2011, then starting his solo career as a freelancer.

In these 17 years, Lima has been building serious, consistent work and, above all, imbued with ethics and responsibility, respecting what he sees and what he photographs. It is no wonder that this year his work has received so much recognition: he was also awarded the World Press Photo award, in the General News category, for the report published in August 2015, in The New York Times, about a 16-year-old Islamic State fighter.

Brazilians are present in places where there are stories to be told. He narrates biographies of victims of misunderstanding, hatred and wars. Deep images, from a critical eye that wants to understand. An imagery legacy that seeks to be poetic within the chaos. What your eyes have seen words cannot express. Silent, he doesn't like the spotlight or the spotlight.

Even so, from New York, he gave this exclusive interview to Brasileiros. This time, the voice is not that of his portrayed, but his. Mauricio Lima, who is represented in Brazil by DOC Galeria, from São Paulo, convinces us that journalism done with seriousness and depth is still possible and has room to be seen.

Brasileiros – Journalist Andrei Netto, from the newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo, made a profile of him, in which he calls him a “lone wolf”. I also wrote about his work, when I punctuated the eloquence of his silence. You've already said that you expect to be invisible in your reporting. Who is Mauricio Lima really? What moves you to photojournalism?

Mauricio Lima –I am incessantly moved by the curiosity of human behavior, its nuances, ambiguities, by the power of awareness that photography can achieve and by the desire to contribute to the transformation of a reality through a visual narrative.

What was the transition like for a young man who started out shooting sports and was suddenly in the war in Iraq and then Afghanistan?
It was a necessary transition, an important phase of maturation as a human being, of perceiving essential values ​​that daydream of rationality between post-adolescence and the moment when you acquire a university degree. A turning point in life. And, by immersing myself in another culture, perhaps it suppressed my inability to express feelings through photography.

Mauricio Lima
Photo : Mauricio Lima

One of his first reports, I believe, as a conflict photographer was about the boy whose face was bruised by shrapnel. He went blind. This investigation moved part of the world. What is the impact of this experience on you as a vector of information and of being where many cannot be to narrate these stories?
Extremely satisfying. My objective was clear when I saw him with his father in front of Baghdad's Green Zone with a doctor's prescription in hand for corneal treatment: to help Ayad Karim. Faced with the lies and the geopolitical interest that motivated the invasion of Iraq, it was the least he could do to minimize that consummated tragedy.

I've seen you go in and out of places unnoticed. Is this “invisibility” part of your daily life?
Yes. It's something I want to preserve. I want to be treated like an ordinary person, without labels or privileges.

You are a photographer who takes political positions and uses social media to do so. Why? How much does that expose you and how much is needed?
Because it is necessary to rescue ideology, believe and fight for something. And, undeniably, because it is a new form of communication. These platforms are powerful, we cannot blind ourselves to that when we are concerned with reality. They reach people immediately and, therefore, can lead to reflection. Freedom of expression must be an inviolable achievement for our civil maturity as a society.

Do you believe that the photojournalist's job is to give voice to those who cannot speak?
Also. It is a reciprocal channel of communication, be it the voice of the photographed person, or the photographer's feeling, of how and why that thing was photographed and should be seen.

Maurício Lima
GREECE Macedonian soldiers erect a barbed wire barrier to prevent refugees from entering the country – Photo: Mauricio Lima

This year, his work won several awards. You are the first Brazilian to win the Pulitzer in the 100th year of the award. Do these awards help the “invisible” become “visible”?  
It is impossible to predict or control the reaction, the feeling of the other, but if photography causes a question, it has already fulfilled an important role.

Unlike many, at this point, you never put yourself as the protagonist. He prefers to present himself as a news “messenger”.
I am fascinated by telling stories. In addition, I was very touched by a request I heard from Gabriel García Márquez when I had the opportunity to have dinner with him: “Don't forget to illuminate a las personas ignored by la sociedad jamás”.

Why should we continue to believe in photojournalism?
Because we must believe in ourselves, in a better world. Being a photographer is being dissatisfied with the present and worried about the future. We don't live this way of life in search of accumulating wealth, but the experience and what we should not repeat with our fellow human beings. When we are faced with a photograph, this moment should be for reflection, for questioning, perhaps for possible conclusions, not for statements.

And now? What's next?
Life goes on in the same way, under the same principles. We can never lose generosity or simplicity, even in the face of a cruel world driven systematically by consumption and frighteningly by individualism.

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