Itaipú: The Sound of Stone
The Sound of a Stone is a series that reflects my continued fascination with massive modern machinery used to create food or sustain life, in this case, Itaipú – the largest operational hydroelectric plant in terms of power generation in the world. Nestled on the border of Brazil with Paraguay, Itaipú means “the sound of a stone” in Guarani, a native language and one of the official languages of Paraguay. Five miles wide and 65 stories high, Itaipú harnesses the flow of the Paraná River, with each of its 20 turbines exposed to 160 tons of water per second.
A major theme throughout my work is to document people’s lives and what is created through their labor, while attempting to bring related social inequities to light. Fifty million tons of earth were moved in order to shift the path of the seventh largest river in the world, displacing tens of thousands along the way. To give a further sense of its overwhelming magnitude, 380 Eiffel Towers could be constructed with the amount of iron and steel used.
Several years ago, I was granted access to photograph its inner workings; a view that is traditionally exclusive to employees. Empty caverns and loud echoes resonated in this massive underground complex, contrasting sharply with the throngs of tourists on the surface. The empty spaces become a metaphor for the displaced communities. The images are surreal and exude a sense of alienation – how small and destructive we are in the face of our environment, and the massive (and at times frightening) power of what humankind has created.