DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY AND FILM

A Miner's Dream

by Sim Chi Yin

 

He Quangui, ended his long battle in 2015 at the age of 42. In the last 10, along with his woman Mi Shixiu fought against silicosis, a lung desease he contracted during the 10 years he worked in gold mining in the Henan region of China. In this country, the prevalence of silicosis is very high, an occupational disease resulting from the continued inhalation of silica powders during extraction work, with an estimated 6 million Chinese workers being affected by it. It progresses slowly, making patients' breathing increasingly difficult and painful, due to silica particles deposited in the lungs over several years of unprotected work.

He Quangui, like many other Chinese, is a migrant worker, a definition that is usually based on the same type of provenance and social reality, encompassing young people from the mountainous and rural regions who have been looking for work in large industrial and urban centers since the last decades. Mines are one of these poles of attraction, calling thousands of workers across the country.

Mining operations previously controlled by the Chinese state are now subject to private operating concessions, which in this case limits the access of workers to health care, a right to which workers of state enterprises are entitled. Tracing of occupational diseases is thus practically non-existent, with the discovery of many of them already at an advanced stage. Companies are only responsible for minor accidents, leaving out the sharing of expenses in chronic diseases that affect workers exposed to a danger they did not even know existed.

The working conditions are very precarious and there is no use of any protective equipment like masks, something that in the case of silicosis could make a huge difference. Treatment costs have to be fully borne by families, who often only have the salary income from the mines, which puts them in a situation of enormous fragility and impotence.

In this brutal testimony brought to us by Sim Chi Yin, He Quangui does something like a declaration for future memory, representing himself, but also the many others who find themselves in the same situation.

With a huge physical weakness, He directly interpellates the president of China, Xi Jinping, claiming, through the telling of his own reality, the lack of support and care to which these migrant workers like himself are subject to, and thus integrating every day the many notebooks, where, as he writes, the names of those who die because of occupational diseases most of them often without any assistance , will continuously increase the paper sheets.

 

see author's work

Dilemma,

by Muyi Xiao

 

This is the story of Siyao, aged 6, and Mengmeng of 4, a history that is often repeated in China, especially in rural areas, where child trafficking, whether through kidnapping or by parents who sells them, takes on a much larger dimension than that of the more urban areas of the country.

The sale of minors in China continues to be a reality, which, although countered and denounced, feeds an intricate chain of connections which involves several institutions and criminal networks and is based on complex cultural traditions, slow police response and poverty. It is in the rural communities and with fewer resources of China that a greater number of these cases occur, and in many of them, the track of the minors or their parents is completely lost. Children, abducted or sold with the consent of their parents, are then sent to trafficking networks, and then they can be sold to families who want a daughter, other families who want a bride for their son, or to orphanages that forge the documentation so that these children are indicated as abandoned and as such, can be referred to the adoption system, more or less legal, not only in China but also in many western countries. Some of these children are also traded as forced laborers, often doing sexual (predominantly female child) or criminal works.

The story of Siyao and Mengmeng, and which Muyi Xiao portrays in a moving way, is the harsh reality of a couple completely cornered by financial difficulties and by disease, and that in facing the ever closer hypothesis of not being able to respond to most basic needs, may consider as solution the sale of one of their daughters, so that everyone can again have access to food and that their other daughter can go back to school.

This concrete situation was subject of public attention after the work of Muyi was published in China, and a fund-raising was done to help this family. While money may not have been channeled to this situation most effectively by the parents of the children, it has been somehow a way to achieve a balance for the fragile family situation, putting them at least for a period of time away from debt and despair.

Siyao and Mengmeng continue with their parents in a daily struggle to respond to constant needs, but in a deeply unstable situation that can change at any time leading once and again to consider every hypothesis, in a last effort to ensure survival.

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Love Studio, by Samsul Alam Helal

 

In this studio in Dhaka, Bangladesh, there is much more than the  lavishly colored costumes, props,and hand-painted scenarios, in an naive artsy way and that purposely moves away from realism. In that place, in the heart of the industrial zone of the city, the dreams and fantasies of those who work in the region come true, in a symbolic way, since they can hardly ever put into practice the staged situations, in which they embody heroes, heroines or characters that result from an individual projection of each ones. Love Studio is thus a place of joy and escape, but it is also at the same time a place of confrontation.

Photographer Samsul Alam Helal, himself also a resident in this area, brings us in this deeply interesting work, a document in which staging and reality coexist in a full and balanced way, resulting in a set of images of enormous authenticity, since the whole scenario and visual environment ends up necessarily leading the observer to a concrete and not so colored reality that we know as existant, off-screen, in reverse.

 

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Mumbai Bound, by Souleyman Messalti

 

Mumbai Railway Station is one of the busiest and densely populated places in the world. Here converges several national lines, but also suburban lines, the last ones, the oldest in all of Asia.

At a frenetic pace that only stops for about an hour a day, more than 6 million people transit through Mumbai Central, trying to get a place in crowded carriages at rush hour, in journeys between home and work that often arrive at five hours daily spent in a train. It is then easy to understand that this place and the train become an extension of the day to day for all these people. This is where they spend countless hours of their lives.

Photographer Souleyman Messalti, in addressing this theme, chooses to take this connection between man and machine, in an ambivalent relation of mutual complementarity, in which both the human and the railway system can be seen as extensions of the other.

In his images, human reality is often filtered through the metal bars that cover windows and symbolically serve as a "prison"consented and necessary to millions of lives, who every day need to embark on these iron monsters to be able to reach their destinations.

 

see author's work

 

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