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Sunday, March 24 2013 @ 07:50 PM EDT

Where Madness Follows - The Search for Gold in the Amazon Jungle

In the summer of 1972 Anthony Boccaccio ventured into the deep Amazon Jungle at a time when only Indians, a few brave adventurers, road-builders and gold miners inhabited God’s Green Hell. Just twenty-two years old at the time, he was one of the first to document in text and photographs the construction of the legendary TransAmazonica — a dirt road cut through the heart of the jungle connecting the farthest reaches of western Brazil with the Atlantic coast.

Back then, the Amazon jungle was practically untouched. The rivers were clear and full of fish. The forests were uninhabited except for a few homesteaders, river-dwellers, and Indian tribes, many of which were still undiscovered. The land was primordial, reminiscent of images of the dawn of Eden.

He returned to the Amazon twenty years later, only to find that the Transamazonic Highway, and others like it, changed everything. Much has happened in the Amazon since the first of a million great forest giant buttress trees were felled. Hydroelectric dams have flooded millions of acres of virgin forest. Railroads have been built. Tin, manganese, iron ore, copper, nickel,  lignite, natural gas, aluminum, diamonds, silver and gold were discovered in vast quantities. The Transamazonic road now has less than seven hundred of its original three thousand miles of passable roadbed left. Indian tribes have been “civilized” practically out of existence. In the state of Rondonia, an area the size of Belgium has been incinerated and the world waits in suspense to see if the burning will continue into the next decade and across the whole forest. National Parks have been established. Territories have been turned into states, and regions into new territories. The whole place has been crisscrossed with new roads. Indian Reservations have been established and whole populations of the Natural Man has been lost. Long and short term scientific studies have been launched  while 30,000 new species of animal and plant life have been recorded. More than 500,000 species, unknown and yet undiscovered have gone extinct. Cultures have collided; Indians mix with Whites, impoverished homesteaders have become land barons overnight, cattle ranchers are fighting farmers who are fighting the rubber-tapper.  Everyone fights the government. Only Nature has her way.

In the midst of this amazing ecological and cultural collision, one individual, more than any other, has contributed to the devastation of the land, the poisoning of the rivers, the decimation of the Indians, the ruin of the family, and the wealth of a few: the garimpeiro — the gold miner.

When the word spread up and down the roads and rivers, that there was gold in the jungle, more than a million men left their homes and families in search of gold.  At the height of the gold rush, more than fourteen tons of the yellow ore was carried out, one sack at a time, from the open pit of the Serra Pelada. A multitude of mud-covered bodies crawled up the steep, red-cliffs of the mine, each with a sack of earth slung over his shoulder. Every ounce of rock in those sacks contained precious amounts of gold. From a distance, the ground itself seemed to move, as thousands upon thousands of men climbed like ants up and down wooden ladders. The scene was apocalyptic, reminiscent of the building of the great Pyramids.

Where Madness Follows is the story of the search for gold in the Amazon jungle. It is the story of the miners, the land, the life, and the adventure of these remarkable men who risk everything for the sake of gold.

Boccaccio’s work is a rich blend of imagery and words — nearly 300 photographs spanning two decades and 40,000 kilometers of travel throughout the vast Amazon jungle — words taken from his diaries and from the very mouths of miners, settlers, women, children, missionaries, soldiers, politicians, adventurers, colonists, engineers, and Indians. This is a rare treat and a remarkable look at what is perhaps the greatest and last gold rush of the Twentieth Century.

Where To Order

You can PREVIEW and purchase this book from in electronic or hardcopy.

  • Where Madness Follows (enhanced ebook)
  • Where Madness Follows (8"x10" Hardcover)
  • Where Madness Follows (13"x11" Hardcover)

For those in the San Francisco Bay area, you can meet Tony and have him sign your copy of his book on April 23 that is hosted at the Brazilian Consulate.

About The Author

Anthony Boccaccio began his career with National Geographic Magazine. His work has taken him to over 30 countries in as many years. Like most photographers, he is a series of contrasts. He is probably most known for his beautiful travel shots, yet while working with the human figure, his sensitivity rivals that of the great painters. Indeed, his artistic life began as a young painter trained in the classical manner. He has studied classical piano at the Eastman School of Music and plays bluegrass banjo. He has taught photography at the college level and has studied classical sculpture in Rome, Italy.

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