In Exchange for Gold is a collaborative project between photographer, Joseph Elliott and author Rich Niesenbaum. The goal of this project has been to document through photography, personal interviews, and archival and scientific research the history, the personalities and the experiences of the people, and the ecology of this region, within the cultural and environmental context of gold mining. We attempt to render the daily lives of the people of Las Juntas. We do this by attending both to the distinct perils and possibilities of those lives. We include words and photographs that tell the story of this people and their particular relationships to their landscape.
This project has resulted both in a Gallery exhibition and a forthcoming book In Exchange for Gold: The Legacy and Sustainability of Artisanal Gold Mining in Las Juntas de Abangares Costa Rica. In this book, we document the linkage between the human experience and the ecology of Las Juntas. We do this through the words of a natural scientist and the images produced by a documentary photographer. The photographs are not meant to illustrate or support the text, but rather tell the same story in a different way. Thus, the words and images could easily stand alone as independent works; however, they do come from a close, interactive collaborative process that has resulted in two forms of documentation. Our hope is that when offered together they reflect an integrative synthesis of perspectives. This type of collaboration between a scientist and an artist is rare, but we believe it is essential for truly understanding the give-and-take among a cultural heritage, social condition, and the ecology of an area.