Where Madness Follows
The Search for Gold in the Amazon Jungle
Text & Photography by Anthony Boccaccio

Gold mining in the Brazilian Amazon showing environmental destruction of the rainforest

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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.

Anthony Boccaccio began his career withNational Geographic Magazine in 1971. Since then, his camera has taken him to over thirty countries in as many years. Like most photographers, he is aseries of contrasts, capturing images from the frozen landscapes of Iceland to the sweltering jungles of the Amazon. His photography is represented by Getty Images and ImageTrust stock photo agencies.

To view more of Boccaccio's photography visit his website at


When he's not voyaging through the Amazon you can usually find Tony sipping good Italian espresso somewhere in Rome, Italy.  He directs and teaches photographic workshops and offers photo tours inRome for those who like to combine travel with photography. If you are interested in spending a day or a week with Boccaccio, visit his web site at:


“Boccaccio is a straight shooter. You always know where you stand with him. He speaks his mind and reacts to life on a visceral level. He is not afraid to take risks in his photography. He follows his instincts and works constantly to be better. We think of him as part Ansel Adams and part Hemingway.”

- Paul Ambrose, Desert Dolphin Agency


All text and photographs shown in this document  and all related links to this page are protected by International Copyrights and may not be reproduced
    in any manner without written permission from the author and/or his representatives. Copyright 2013 Anthony A. Boccaccio or his representatives.