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Elza Lima (Belém, Pará, 1952), an Amazon documentary look to the world by Yara Schreiber Dines


In 1979, she graduated in History from the Federal University of Pará – UFPA. She was encouraged to learn to take photos so that she could record her daughters’ childhood. She attended the first Fotoativa workshop courses in 1984, conceived as a project by Miguel Chikaoka, a leading figure in the photo world of the country’s northern region. In 1985, Elza showed her first pictures on photo clothesline during a relevant event by Funarte, in the city of Belém. She worked at the Audiovisual Resource Center of Amazonia (CRAVA), in the capital of the state of Pará, which encouraged local film production, in addition to promoting the importance of visual language in the state school system. She won her first award at the 7th edition of Pará Award for the Arts in 1988.

Elza also emphasized her close contact with her grandfather and writer Justino in the construction of her imaginary world: when travelling to the countryside and in the fables she created. She named the house she lived with her grandparents as the “home of inventions.” The combination of reality and dream has always been present in her photographic production. She focused her attention on the documentation of spaces and on Amazon populations. Her pictures preserved the cultural heritage and a way of life undergoing constant changes. As she told in 1996: “…I have been photographing mainly to denounce, as well as to record all that is being lost.”

The artist is a national and international reference. She has works in the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, France, and Portugal. Elza has photos in the art collections of the São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art (MAM do Rio de Janeiro) and the Portuguese Center of Photography.

Yara Schreiber Dines


Bibliography Consulted

CHIODETTO, Eder (organização). Elza Lima. São Paulo: Ipsis, 2016. 1 vol. não paginado, il.; fot., 16,6 x 14,4 cm. (Coleção Ipsis de Fotografia Brasileira, 5).

ELZA Lima. Enciclopédia Itaú Cultural de Arte e Cultura Brasileiras. São Paulo: Itaú Cultural, 2021. Disponível em:>. Acesso em: 22 mar. 2021. Verbete da Enciclopédia.

ELZA Lima [grandes nomes da fotografia]. In: Blog Ipsis Pro. Disponível em: Acesso em: 22 mar. 2021.

ELZA Lima. MAM. Disponível em: Acesso em: 22 mar. 2021.

Behind the photo: the Amazon imaginary in the eye of phographer Elza Lima. Access in: April 8, 2024.



… “There must be a time for me to take multiple shots of each scene, sometimes using two camera rolls of film, because I need that time for the unpredictable to happen. For that thing that I don’t control to happen and that I know is going to happen if I let some time go by.”

Statement by Elza Lima to Yara Schreiber Dines, April 2021

I made this photo during the Círio de Nazaré Procession in the town of Vigia, the oldest one in the State of Pará, in 1989. The planes I used for that photo give a clear idea of how I saw things as a girl. The house in the fourth plane has the size of a doll’s house, while the first plane enlarges the boy who leads the scene. In the second plane, the head of the ox goes against that of the boy. In the third plane, the woman giving the scale for house measurement in the background reflects well the impossibility of living in that tiny dwelling. This set of planes comes to me from the hours sitting in the living room chair, enjoying the change of scenes, with the river as a background, framed by the display window. Consulted on April 8, 2024

Translation: Lourdes Soares

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