arts and design

‘These ship-breakers work on a site laden with toxic waste’: Mithail Afrige Chowdhury’s best phone picture

Bangladeshi photographer Mithail Afrige Chowdhury has spent six years on a series featuring workers in his country’s ship-breaking yards. This image was taken in Sadarghat, Dhaka. The man he captured smiled and gave him permission to share it as he stepped on to dry land, where Chowdhury was shooting from.

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“His name is Sulaiman, and there are thousands of men like him engaged in extremely hazardous occupations. Ship-breakers dismantle old vessels into parts for recycling or disposal on a site laden with toxic waste. They have no training or safety equipment, and no ability to keep themselves safe from harm or death,” Chowdhury says.

Elsewhere in Bangladesh, Chowdhury notes, people work in quarries and construction sites lifting and carrying heavy loads, while others scrape a living in the glass and brassware industry, where they’re exposed to high temperatures and heavy, sharp tools. “Their wage is extremely poor, particularly in comparison with the risk,” he says.

Chowdhury often shoots candidly, and says his subjects rarely notice he’s there. He used an iPhone 12 Pro Max, followed by some basic adjustments to the contrast, sharpness and highlights in Adobe Lightroom. “The colour, light and geometry of these places draws me back, but bringing awareness to policymakers and our government is my main focus.”


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