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From Neuchâtel to the Amazon Brazil, through the lens of Claudia Andujar

Photographer Claudia Andujar has been a long-time promoter of the culture and rights of the Amazon's Yanomami indigenous people. Born in Neuchâtel, the 84-year-old began her career in São Paulo, Brazil, where she has lived for decades. 

Andujar's childhood in Switzerland and eastern Europe was marked by war. Claudine Haas, as she was called until her marriage, had a Hungarian Jewish father and a Swiss mother. Her father and almost her entire family on her father’s side were killed in Nazi concentration camps. 

In 1944, she returned to Switzerland and soon afterwards travelled to an uncle in New York, where she worked as an interpreter at the United Nations. In order to gain US citizenship, in 1949 she married Julio Andujar, a Spaniard who would fight in the Korean War. The couple soon divorced, but Claudia kept her ex-husband’s name. 

In 1955, she visited her mother, who lived in the Brazilian metropolis São Paulo. She preferred Brazil and never returned to the US. 

In Brazil she discovered photography. “I was very interested in getting to know the country and the people. At the same time I developed an interest in the indigenous people,” she said. 

It was tough at first. She earned a living by teaching English. But she slowly made a name for herself as a photographer and worked for Brazilian and international magazines such as Look, Life, Aperture, Claudia, Quatro Rodas, Setenta and in particular Realidade, a heavyweight of Brazilian photojournalism. 

Andujar devoted more and more time to the documentation of native tribes, especially the Yanomami. In 1970 a special edition of Realidade was published, devoted to her work with the Yanomami. 

She has published many works on the subject and her pictures have been displayed in the largest galleries in the world. This year her collection of more than 10,000 photos is set to be digitalised. 

(Images: Claudia Andujar; Text: Guilherme Aquino, swissinfo.ch)

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