Michael Naify

Artist Statement – Dispatches

This body of work stems from the 2019 trailing’s dam collapse in Brumadinho, MG killing some 270 people (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/brazil_dam_disaster). I happened to be in the state capital for the month having moved my elderly mother-in-law there to be closer to family. I was able to visit and shoot the aftermath of the disaster with some difficulty but was interested in understanding more about the mining industry, which is the main driver of the economy, in fact the state’s name is Minas Gerais (General Mines) derived from the importance of mining from its colonial past starting at the end of the 16th Century.

While driving around the state I was constantly aware of the mines that dot the landscape. Even the state capital, Belo Horizonte, is ringed by active mines and trailing’s dams. My desire to photograph these mines quickly ran into the reality that it is very difficult to get close to them. The mining companies are very careful to keep their activities hidden from view with fences, security guards and even earthen barriers. I was able to get into some old, abandoned mines and even a couple of active ones, but soon came to the realization that to get what I wanted I needed to get altitude. During the lockdown of 2020 I used the time to get a drone and learn how to use it.

Upon my return to Minas Gerais, I have been able to use my drone to go places I could never have gotten to previously. I am freed from the security guards who would claim that I was walking through an “ecological preserve” though I was walking through a devastated landscape and would escort me away from that day’s mine. Now I need only get close enough to then fly my camera to where it needs to go.

The photos expose a reality that I had never fully understood. The activities used to extract the resources that make our modern life possible come at the expense of places and people. The population who live in proximity to these mines suffer the effects from heavy metals that come in the form of dust and water from these activities not to mention the many tens of thousands who live under the threat of trailing’s dams many of which are classified as code red (risk of imminent collapse) like the one which collapsed in Brumadinho (which was not even code red).

The effects on the environment are profound. There is no reclamation of these sites. There is no way to put the mountains back. The results of modern intensive mining leave the site without any topsoil and unable to sustain life. They have become a dead zone.

The worst is that I realize that I, as are all of us, complicit in this destruction.

Download Link: Artist Statement – Dispatches


Artist Statement – ROOM 32

This work is based on the alienation and disassociation stemming from a relationship that has ruptured under the strain of time while on vacation at a beach resort. The subjects are tied together intimately through bonds of time and emotion but are unable to confront their ghosts in a constructive way. The breakdown overwhelms their ability to handle their emotions leading to the sense of isolation and inability to communicate. In the midst of these feelings they have the sense that these feelings will never end, and time slips into another dimension. This work was co-created together with my wife and artist Simone Naify.

Download Link: Artist Statement – ROOM 32


Artist Statement – Cuba

My work with Cuba grows naturally out of my over 30 years of traveling in Latin cultures from Italy to Brazil. Upon arrival in Cuba I was struck by its people’s warmth and other deep cultural similarities with Brazil. I felt immediately at home and welcomed in Havana.

I went to Cuba with the (improbable) hope of meeting a boxer, boxing being Cuba’s national sport second only to baseball.   As such, boxers stand out as some of Cuba’s great emblematic sports heroes.  I was lucky enough to find  Enrique, a former boxer who was willing to tell me his story and invite me into his family.  Enrique’s life, typical of a former boxer, is inherently bittersweet – scarred by disappointments and broken dreams. His story is a parable of Havana, itself, which despite years of neglect and decay, radiates pride, a spectacular charm and a grand past.

In this body of work I use sequencing, juxtaposition and the negative image to accentuate what I saw and experienced through Enrique and his story. I use these techniques in order to bring to about a deeper insight into the country in order to highlight what is easily overlooked.

Download Link: Artist Statement – Cuba


Artist Statement – Evidence

At its core, my art comes from reflection on a sense of imminent threat to basic qualities of life by the manipulation of political imagery and disinformation. I choose the means and techniques of photography as they provide the most immediate and powerful starting point for addressing that subversion, fighting fire with fire.

My project, EVIDENCE, was born from the shock and anxiety caused by the wide-ranging distortions accompanying the ‘Trump effect’. By the use of obscured images and blended text I pluck at the viewers’ critical contemplation of the abstracted image and its equivocal potential for both subversion and distortion. My techniques, in the end, both track and expose those used to mix, manipulate, and obscure truth and fiction for political ends.

Download Link: Artist Statement – Evidence