A Bitter Sweet Award Moment

BHOPAL, INDIA: Suraj, 20 years old, at home in the Kainchi Chola neighborhood. Suraj was born to parents contaminated by a carcinogenic and mutagenic water supply. This year marks the 31st anniversary of the 1984 Union Carbide gas tragedy that killed up to 10,000 of the citizens of Bhopal within 72 hours and has gone on to claim in total 25,000 lives to date. The original site of the toxic pesticide plant was never cleaned up and remains, as referred to by Greenpeace as one of the world's 'toxic hotspots'. Thousands of families, for decades, been using water contaminated with toxic chemicals as their primary supply leading to serious illnesses, including cancers, and a spate of birth defects in their children.
Suraj Pratap Singh, Bhopal, December 2015

Sadly, Sural Pratap Singh, pictured here by Giles Clarke, died just weeks after this photo was taken in December 2015. He was suffering from severe cerebral palsy. The picture has now been awarded an ‘Honorary Mention’ in the Life Framer 2016 Awards: CLICK

Suraj’s mother, Kesar Bai, was exposed to Union Carbide’s poison gas in the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster. Being exposed to this toxic gas is known to cause many serious health problems and is widely believed to be the cause of a spate of birth defects now affecting a third generation in Bhopal.

Kesar, and her remaining family, live in an area where they have been exposed to the contaminated water found in the areas around Carbide’s abandoned pesticide factory. The contamination is being caused by water leaching into the groundwater aquifer through toxic waste that was abandoned by Union Carbide while the factory was still in production. This contaminated groundwater has been the primary drinking water source for tens of thousands of people for many years and is widely believed to be the cause of a spate of health problems, and serious birth defects, in the communities living there.

The Life Framer Editors had this to say about Giles work: “Giles’ image of a terminally-ill child in the Indian city of Bhopal is hugely affecting. Like the photojournalistic practice of our past judge Ed Kashi, he confronts troubling subject matter in a raw and unflinching way, and yet finds a ‘beauty’ in his image – in this case those bright, anxious eyes behind the outstretched hand. It’s a powerful piece of photojournalistic image making, along with the other images submitted from his ‘Toxic Trespass’ series. Giles’ statement provided is a touching narrative for the power of his work: “”Recognizing the fragility of life, I hope [this image conveys] that sense of mortality and photography’s power to remember, honour, dignify in the face of death””.


Photo: copyright Giles Clarke, Getty Images/ Bhopal Medical Appeal

Girl with candle Bhopal

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