Abir Abdullah, this year’s Alexia Foundation professional grant winner, continues to passionately cover working and living conditions for those employeed by the garment industry in Bangladesh.
Abir took this image of a flimsy rope ladder, the emergency exit for a 7-story building, on his way to a demonstration by garment workers demanding food allowances in an isolated part of the city a month after the Rana Plaza building collapse which killed 1,129 people. With this ladder as the emergency escape plan, it is evident that the change necessary to prevent tragedies like Rana Plaza has not occurred yet.
Although the collapse made consumers wonder about the true cost of cheaply manufactured goods, this has not translated into a loss of business for Bangladesh
An image of the ladder by another photographer was published in a local newspaper. The following day, the authorities removed the ladder. They also shut down the factory with the rope ladder, which is where the demonstrators were from, and they refused to meet the workers’ demands. Abir is following workers from the protest to see if any of them lose their jobs because of the demonstration.
Abir is also following survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse, telling the stories of how they are rebuilding their lives. An image from this series was featured by Time Magazine. While Abir pursues the tales of the survivors, Time notes that although the collapse made consumers wonder about the true cost of cheaply manufactured goods, this has not translated into a loss of business for Bangladesh. Garment exports from the nation were up 15% in May.
We are certain that Abir’s powerful work and the stories he will convey will help lift consumer apathy and result in better working conditions for his fellow countrymen and women. We are so glad to be able to support this important work. Watch for further updates, and images from Abir as he tells the stories of the Rana Plaza survivors and the lives of workers in Bangladesh.
Abir’s work will be on display at 25CPW Gallery in the “Eyes on the World” exhibition which opens this Thursday, June 20 at 6 p.m. His work will also be on display at the prestigious Visa Pour l’Image in Perpignan, France Aug. 31-Sept. 15. Abir is one of only 16 photographers in the highly competitive exhibition section of the photographic festival.
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Abir’s image was published in a local paper. That was incorrect. The local paper published their own version of the photo of the ladder. As well, the authorities removed the ladder, not the image.