It all began in the damp and narrow tunnels of underground horizontal wells known as galerias filtrantes in the highlands near the Mexican town of San Pedro Tetitlan, an indigenous term meaning “the place where stones abound.” The wells, introduced by Spanish authorities during the colonial era, are upwardly inclined passages that use gravity to tap into water trapped in mountain roots and bring it to the surface at a lower point in the valley. “This water equals life for our people, and for this reason we are working to maintain it,” a villager told us.
World Press-winning photojournalist Brent Stirton braved the cramped spaces for Circle of Blue to capture images of villagers as they maintained their crucial water supply. COB Co-Founder J. Carl Ganter crawled about 100 yards into the mountain passage before retreating back to the surface with reporter Joseph Contreras, then Newsweek’s Mexico City bureau chief.
Brent is among the world’s leading journalists and photojournalists who are on the front lines for Circle of Blue. As senior staff photojournalist for Getty Images, his work from the world’s conflicts and crises is seen regularly in major international magazines. He has a rare gift for expressing compassion through his lens and has covered multiple stories for us. His drive to tell the critical yet complex global story of water has led to some of the most powerful imagery of our era.
Circle of Blue began with an ambitious idea – to report the most important stories about water worldwide. Our inaugural project – Divining Destiny – was anchored in the Tehuacan Valley of rural Mexico with a grant from the Ford Foundation. The team, drawn from around the world, was among the first to reveal the connections between groundwater depletion, climate change, and human migration.
When we say reporting from the front lines, it means going to the source of the story, and sometimes deep into warrens chiseled from mountain stone hundreds of years ago.
Photos: J. Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue (top), Brent Stirton / Reportage by Getty Images for Circle of Blue (bottom)
Brent Stirton Website
Jane is a Communications Associate for Circle of Blue. She writes The Stream and has covered domestic and international water issues for Circle of Blue. She is a recent graduate of Grand Valley State University, where she studied Multimedia Journalism and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. During her time at Grand Valley, she was the host of the Community Service Learning Center podcast Be the Change. Currently based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jane enjoys listening to music, reading and spending time outdoors.