A trip to the Kathmandu Valley to photograph the human and animal workforce in brick kilns.
Mules are bred in India and purchased there to work in Nepal’s brick kilns. If they survive in reasonable condition they can be sold on as mountain pack animals at the end of the season. The mule owners bring with them boys to drive the mules back and forth, from the brick drying stacks to the kiln itself. Many of these children are classed as bonded labour. Their families are paid upfront for the child’s season of work. They can rapidly become trapped in a cycle of debt.
Conditions are even worse for adult workers. The safe working load for a mule is a third of its bodyweight. I saw adults carrying as many as 32 two-kilo bricks – effectively their entire bodyweight.
If you want to know more about this issue have a look at ‘Brick by Brick’. This excellent report links environment, human labour and animal welfare.
Sunday 23rd October was Open Day at the Crossness Pumping Station. The ‘Thames Tides’ installation, created by Susi Arnott and I, screened throughout the day alongside the mighty beam engines. You can still catch the show this Friday 28th Oct. Details and photos below.
Crossness Pumping Station. Friday 28th Oct. 2016
Where? Crossness Pumping Station
The Old Works, Thames Water S.T.W. Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, London SE2 9AQ
When? Friday 28th Oct. Public guided tour from 10am-1pm. Booking is required for this – through Eventbrite on the Crossness website. Cost is £12 and includes tea and biscuits.
Parking available outside site on Bazalgette Way. Walkers/cyclists gain access via the pedestrian access pathway – at end of Bazalgette Way on left BEFORE thames water security gate.
Yvonne’s family live without piped water or sanitation but they own three Smartphones, one tablet, a laptop and a TV. Far from being luxuries these devices are likely to be their way out of poverty. Her two oldest daughters are very clever and technologically able.
Yvonne works at the Gugu Dlemini AIDS Foundation. She says:
It took me a long time to come out of that shell that made me less confident, but eventually I thought to myself that it was something I had to do. In my community many people suffer from these situations. It’s also because we are less educated, so we see no reason, or feel ashamed to speak about these kinds of things. We still live in a community that is dominated by men, making women feel less adequate.
As a woman this also affects me. I am also HIV positive, and I am deaf too. This has brought a lot of misunderstandings and difficulties for myself and other people. People find it hard to communicate with me. Some people think that there is something wrong with me. I misinterpret what they are saying. This causes me to distance myself from people. It has also caused problems with my relationships with men in my life as they take advantage of me.
Thulile, Simiso and Jennifer are currently presenting their work at the Durban Art Gallery as part of the Through Positive Eyes show, coinciding with the International AIDS Conference. The show has been designed by Stan Pressner and Carol Brown to enable the participants to tell their stories and interact with projections of their work.
Here is an extract from Thulile’s story:
‘I have been living with HIV for 25 years, I was born with it.
As a kid they told me I would not live past 7. When I lived past 7 years old they told me I wouldn’t live past 10….
When my neighbors found out, they stigmatized me.
I discovered I could do things to help myself. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am a positive woman. I won’t let anyone discriminate me. I have survived.
When I don’t feel well I talk to my virus. I say ‘don’t misbehave! If I get sick you won’t have anyplace to live.’ I must love myself and be positive to myself. I am a hero. We are all human, we all need love. We are strong. We are beautiful. We are positive.
Elizabeth is currently presenting her work at the Durban Art Gallery as part of the Through Positive Eyes show, coinciding with the International AIDS Conference. The show has been designed by Stan Pressner to enable the participants to tell their stories and interact with projections of their work.
Here is an extract from Elizabeth’s story:
‘Hello, I’m Elizabeth. I was diagnosed HIV+ in 2008.
At birth I was taken away from my mother, she was mentally unstable. I grew up in the Homes. I had fun growing up with my age group, with only one or two housemothers we had lots of freedom to interact and live.
As time went on I was put in a foster home. I was abused badly at this place. It was a difficult time for me, the hardest time in my life. I felt like my childhood was taken away from me.
I spoke up and eventually was removed from this home.
In 2008 I found out I was HIV+. I actually had many friends around me who were positive. I asked them questions and I’ve learned to live with it.
I moved on. I continued to use alcohol and drugs. I had two children. The first I gave up for adoption. The second, I decided to keep. The day the doctor put her in my arms, I fell in love.
New Year’s day last year, I decided to change my way. I’d been going around and around in circles. I want to find myself. I decided I wanted to pull myself together.
I’ve decided to come out about it all, especially living with HIV. Now I want to encourage young girls to love themselves, to trust themselves, to speak up….’
Seven people go into a room and eight people come out.
Anaesthetists don’t just work with unconscious patients. This expectant mother is being guided through a magic trick. Sitting beside her, the anaesthetist asks questions, tells her what is happening, and what she can expect to feel and hear. His team help bridge the gap between her emotions, and what is happening to her numbed body.
From my own experiences, I’m aware of the intimacy and vulnerability in handing yourself over completely into the care of someone else.
Everyone remembers having a general anaesthetic. They won’t remember the operation; but they’re likely to tell their friends all about the process of slipping into unconsciousness. The anaesthetist is their guide and protector into and out of this netherworld. For the clinicians the process is routine, yet the anaesthetists and nurses I photographed were always aware of the importance of this moment to the patient. They used charm, humour, calmness, eye contact and a genuine interest in the patient to help them navigate what is at the very least a disorienting experience.
Consciousness is a tricky subject, debated by philosophers and scientists for hundreds of years. But anaesthetists turn it on and off and otherwise manipulate it every day. Photographing people losing consciousness is an odd thing. Like a benign and reversible death. One moment they’re there talking as I snap away and the next minute they’re absent, yet still the centre of attention. They are there and not there.
My commission for the Royal College of Anaesthetists took me to hospitals around the country to photograph all aspects of anaesthesia.
I’ll cover other aspects of this extraordinary profession in future posts.
Last December I returned from helping to run the Haiti chapter of this international arts and advocacy project, in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives. I teach photography and co-edit the work with the participants, alongside Gideon Mendel. This is the eighth city the project has worked in to challenge the stigma of HIV.
I’ve just returned from helping to run the Thai chapter of this international arts and advocacy project, in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives. This is the seventh city the project has worked in to challenge the stigma of HIV.
With thanks to Mwende, Beth, Lydia, Jadida & The Donkey Sanctuary
Aid policy and interventions can raise very complex issues but in drought ridden Mwingi in NE Kenya the role of donkeys is really very simple. Without donkeys, people and their livestock cannot survive.
Donkeys form the vital final link in the distribution of water, food, firewood, fertiliser, grain and market goods.
This is Mwende holding the skull of Mutawr one of the nine cattle and ten goats she lost in the drought of 2009.
One of 14 HIV+ve participants, Anthony rendered his life story in a series of paper cut-out shadow photographs. Working until four in the morning over many nights and using just paper and a torch he has taken photography right back to its origins by fixing a shadow cast upon a sheet of paper. His images have the directness of photograms and produce a compellingly parred down narrative of survival.
Visiting her one room home I was particularly taken by the screen around her shrine. She told me it was there to avoid offending passing Muslim neighbours in the busy alley outside. This sparked a whole discussion about how she navigates her multiple identities as a man, a woman and as a Hindu and a Muslim while remaining within society and her community.
She acts these out for us in a documentary performance which is intimate and confident but without histrionics or vanity.
I’ve just returned from helping to run the latest round of this international project in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives.
Around the world—in half a dozen countries, on five continents—HIV-positive people open their lives and share their stories. Through their own photographs, in their own voices, they teach the importance of compassion and the power of living a positive life. I run the photo-workshops on this project which is directed by photographer Gideon Mendel and Professor David Gere with a team from UCLA.
‘A woman without a donkey – is a donkey’ Ethiopian saying
There are 6.2 million working donkeys in Ethiopia. When they are fit and healthy they carry water to villages and goods to market. In both rural and urban areas they form the backbone of the local transport and haulage system and provide an income for the poorest families. If they become sick or injured then the work of carrying water and heavy loads to market will usually fall to women. The welfare of donkeys can be a matter of life and death.
Over the last year I’ve photographed patients and staff at Guy’s & St Thomas’, Charing Cross, Whipps Cross and Imperial College hospitals. Because of consent issues I can only reproduce photos of staff and not patients here.
Around the world—in half a dozen countries, on five continents—HIV-positive people open their lives and share their stories. Through their own photographs, in their own voices, they teach the importance of compassion and the power of living a positive life. I am the photo-educator on this project, working with photographer Gideon Mendel and a team from UCLA led by Professor David Gere.