Congratulations to photographer and long-time supporter Francesca Moore, who has won first prize in this month’s Life Framer photograph competition in the ‘Colors’ category for her (above) photograph of Sarita Malviya, part of her ‘Women Activist Survivors’ series on the women of Bhopal. She has kindly sent us some background on the photo and the ‘Woman Activist Survivors’ series, and her career as a photographer:
The participants in the Bhopal’s Women Activist Survivors series are all survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster, and some of the people who continue to campaign for justice over thirty years on. The women were photographed in all the natural beauty of their humble homes, on the edge of the disaster site that has never been cleaned up.
This image is of Sarita Malviya, who’s family moved to Bhopal after the gas disaster, but the secondary water contamination, as a result of the Union Carbide factory site never being remediated, has resulted in a much greater ongoing disaster that has affected Sarita and her family. Sarita is one of the founders of a campaign organisation named ‘Children Against Dow Carbide’ set up when she was only around 10 years old, and she was even campaigning for justice long before that.
“At first, when we used to pump water, we didn’t mind it much. We thought that since it was coming from the pump, that’s why it was dirty and smelled bad. But when we started getting sick and they told us that this water is causing diseases and disabling our children, I met those kids, and then I realised that this water was ruining our generation. Something inside told me that I should join [the movement], because [if] we don’t do anything today, tomorrow someone else will be affected” – Sarita Malivi
This piece is a work-in-progress that will be accompanied by further documentary photographs and a collection of their life stories, transcribed and written by anthropologist Apoorva Dixit. Here is how one of the judges describes the image:
“This photograph portrays one of the activists for justice powerfully contrasting the woman’s lively colourful surroundings and traditional South Asian wear and with her introspective, focused gaze. The woman avoids direct eye contact, smiles faintly, but she stands strong and determined, telling a story that is more than just about the “vibrant colours for which India is known.” In selecting this photograph, I hope the photographer will be able to complete her project-in-progress in collaboration with anthropologist Apoorva Dixit and raise awareness to this ongoing fight for human rights.” – Judge Marion Tandé
About Francesca Moore
Francesca Moore is a documentary photographer whose work stems from interests in people and the environment. With a formalised and methodological approach, she draws on her scientific background to portray humanitarian, social and environmental issues. As well as working on longer-running funded and self-funded projects, she documents news and editorial events and also teaches photography.
Her Arts Council England funded project ‘Bhopal: Facing 30’ portrays the site of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster today, and the people who continue to be affected thirty years on. A book was published to commemorate the disaster’s thirtieth anniversary and the photographs were exhibited nationally and internationally and shortlisted and exhibited for Environmental Photographer of the Year 2014 and shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. The project received Special Commendations for the Nick Reeves award for Arts and the Environment in recognition of an outstanding contribution in the field of environmental arts.
Her documentary project ‘Fermă’, explores the effects of the current EU climate on Romanian farmers, and includes a series of formal portraits inspired by the 18th century painted portraits and 19th century photographic portraits of the region, a style portraiture that was developed during an artists’ residency at the University of Derby.
‘Women Survivor Activists’ is a project highlighting the incredible women living in the shadows of the world’s worst industrial disaster, that took place in Bhopal, India, 1984. On a cold December night up to 8-12,000 people were killed when a Union Carbide pesticide factory released 27 tonnes of an invisible Methyl Isocyanate gas across the city. The site, now owned by Dow Chemical, remains un-remediated and highly toxic, affecting 120,000 people today from the gas exposure and secondary water contamination around the plant site. Working with an anthropologist, born in Bhopal but raised in Memphis, Tennessee, by parents who had narrowly escaped the disaster, we have begun collecting the stories of the incredible women who are fighting to raise awareness of the disaster’s effects, and to make positive changes in their communities, step by step. Their stories have never been collated before, and will serve to raise greater awareness of the issues they face and the positive changes they have made.
As a press accredited member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Francesca held the role of London Photographer’s Branch Equality Officer, and combines her environmental work with a passion for the performing arts and has been photographing live stage shows, festivals and events for over ten years.
Photo: Sarita Malviya by Francesca Moore