"Crude Reflections" Comes to San Francisco

Photo Exhibit Documents Chevron's Toxic Devastation of Ecuadorian Amazon

Amazon Watch

Amazon Watch
10 November 2005 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Paul Paz y MiƱo: +1 510.281.9020 x302,

Photos, footage and interviews available in English and Spanish.

(Note to media: The show runs at San Francisco City Hall from Nov 14 to Dec 30, 8am-8pm, Mon-Fri. The official launch is at City Hall on Nov 16, from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, with the program starting at 6:15pm. A press conference will be held on the lower level of City Hall at 11am on Tuesday, Nov 15. The photographers will be available for interview at the event or by prior arrangement. A preview of the photo exhibit and extensive background information about Chevron's toxic legacy in the Amazon rainforest, and the international campaign and landmark trial to make the corporation clean up its mess, are at:

San Francisco, CA -- Crude Reflections: ChevronTexaco's Rainforest Legacy, a photo exhibit documenting the human and environmental impacts of Chevron's devastating toxic contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon, will open at San Francisco City Hall on November 14. The show provides vivid and moving testimony of the daily reality of the families and communities forced to cope with what some experts regard as the world's worst oil-related disaster and their fight for justice against the global oil giant, headquartered in San Ramon, California.

Over nearly three decades, Texaco (now Chevron) dumped toxic contamination including 30 times more crude oil than the Exxon Valdez spill into the pristine Amazon rainforest, poisoning its ecosystem and human residents. In Crude Reflections, photographers Lou Dematteis and Kayana Szymczak, with journalist Joan Kruckewitt, have captured the physical and emotional reality of this catastrophe. The haunting images of human tragedy and poisoned landscapes are offset by images of the local residents and their fight for justice by means of a landmark class action law suit now being adjudicated in Ecuador on behalf of 30,000 residents of the Amazon.

Dematteis, who first traveled to Ecuador in 1993 to cover the catastrophe, hopes his photos will help his subjects in their struggle. Revealing how he became drawn to the plight of the devastated rainforest communities, he said: "I met some of the victims and became personally interested. I wanted to bring their stories to life so that people would understand how this issue affects particular individuals and particular families. People were just not aware of the problem. The reactions the photos got were very powerful. People were incensed, especially because this is something that did not need to happen. It was avoidable, a man-made disaster, made by Texaco."

Szymczak added: "Even after being told about the scale and degree of the problem in Ecuador, I was shocked when I finally saw it at first-hand. What happened there is beyond belief, until you see it for yourself. I hope my pictures allow other people to make a connection with this issue, and the people affected by it as they continue their daily struggle for survival and justice."

Environmental and human rights organizations in Ecuador and the U.S. have been calling on Chevron to take action and clean up its widespread pollution. As part of the class action lawsuit brought by the residents of the region against Chevron, water and soil samples from more than 100 contaminated sites in the rainforest presented to the Ecuadorian court in recent months overwhelmingly show levels of pollution greater than national and international standards, often by orders of magnitude.
Presented by the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, Crude Reflections is supported by Amazon Watch, Amnesty International, Sierra Club, the Amazon Defense Coalition, Rainforest Action Network, Global Exchange, and the Pachamama Alliance.

Artist Biographies

Award-winning photographer Lou Dematteis has spent more than two decades documenting social and political conflicts in the United States and around the world. A former staff photographer for Reuters, Dematteis has published two books: Nicaragua: A Decade of Revolution (W.W. Norton), an anthology of the Sandinista years in Nicaragua, and A Portrait of Viet Nam (W.W. Norton), which documents the social and economic transformation of contemporary Vietnam. He has exhibited extensively in the United States and abroad. Dematteis was based in Nicaragua during the war between the Sandinistas and the Contras. In 1986, his photograph of captured U.S. soldier-of-fortune Eugene Hasenfus being led through the jungle by a Sandinista soldier was named one of the top pictures of the year by The New York Times, National Press Photographers Association, and World Press Photo

Kayana Szymczak is a documentary photographer and independent photojournalist whose work focuses on issues of human rights and environmental justice. Based in San Francisco, her work has taken her from India to Alaska to South America. Awarded a Titcomb Foundation grant, Szymczak traveled to the Ecuadorian Amazon to document the impacts of oil development on local communities. Using her camera to raise awareness, Kayana strives to be an advocate for endangered indigenous communities around the world as they struggle to preserve their land, culture, language, and way of life.

Joan Kruckewitt is a journalist who lived in Nicaragua and covered the war between the Sandinistas and the Contras. She received her B.A. from U.C. Berkeley and her M.A. in Latin American Studies from Stanford University. She has reported from Latin America and Europe for various radio networks, including ABC Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Company and National Public Radio. She is the author of The Death of Ben Linder; The Story of a North American in Sandinista Nicaragua (Seven Stories Press).


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