NERA DI VERZASCA AWARD 2016
'Toxic Trespass' is part of my ongoing work dedicated to raising awareness for those men, women and children who are still suffering today in the central Indian city of Bhopal; a place I have returned and documented annually over the past seven years. I was back in Bhopal again in December 2015 and finally able to accompany the very private and dedicated care-workers who have worked tirelessly with many of these afflicted children since they were born. Without going into the obvious difficulty of working with such terminally ill children, all I can say is that the gentle process of recording these crippled families was jarring and completely heartbreaking. One particular child, Suraj Pratap Singh, aged 20, died just a few weeks after we met and photographed him at his house in late November 2015.
December 2nd, 2015 marked 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, over 25,000 lives to date. The original site of the heavily-polluted pesticide plant was never cleared up and remains, as referred to by Greenpeace, one of the world's 'toxic hotspots'. Thousands families have, 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. The title refers to scholar-activist Sandra Steingraber's concept of toxic trespass, in which "chemicals that are suspected or known to be linked to cancer or reproductive problems; neurological poisons that are entering our bodies because we're breathing or we're drinking or we're eating food and we haven't consented to their presence being there."
Much of this series was commissioned in 2015 by The Bhopal Medical Appeal in London as part of an awareness campaign designed to raise funds for The Chingari Children Rehabilitation Clinic located in Bhopal, India. The specialized therapy and rehabilitation clinic has just over 750 children registered - most of whom are severely disabled having been born to parents contaminated by a carcinogenic and mutagenic water supply.
This photographic series is designed to accompany a ground-breaking epidemiological study, carried out by The Bhopal Medical Appeal, soon to released (September 2016) and expected to elevate the campaign on to the global stage.