Alexia Foundation Photo of Today – Abir Abdullah

A Bangladeshi injured worker is carried on a stretcher by fellow workers during a fire at a garment unit of Ha-Mim Group in Savar, Bangladesh, 14 December 2010. At least 24 people died and hundreds were injured when the fire broke out on the 9th and 10th floors of the building. Abir Abdullah

Today’s photo is by 2013 Professional Grantee, Abir Abdullah from his story “The deadly cost of cheap clothing” which documents the omnipresent threat of fire to the working class of Dhaka, Bangladesh in slums, in shopping centers and, particularly, in garment factories.

The garment industry is Bangladesh’s most important business sector, earning $19 billion from exports last year alone. This photo shows garment workers evacuating a fellow worker who was injured in a fire. Workers can often be far less fortunate. Factory fires have killed 600 workers since 2005.

The dangers of the industry were brought to the attention of the world with a horrific fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory in November of 2012. As least 112 workers were killed. Among the dead was a son who was able to call his mother before fire took his life. He told her he would not survive. He instructed her to find him in the bathroom on the 5th floor, wearing a black t-shirt with another shirt wrapped around his waist.

Abir recounts photographing the charred remains of a woman with a nose ring after the Tazreen Fashion fire. Her body had been cordoned off by soldiers. Taking the photo with the detail of her jewelry was difficult. “I felt grief and anger and guilt for taking such a gruesome portrait,” says Abdullah in his project proposal, “but I also knew that news agencies will clamor for this photograph. The world only gives such people importance and headlines when they are dead, ignoring them when they are alive. The price of your cheap, fashionable clothes is those deaths.”

This brutal image appears as part of Abir’s full proposal page.

Abir’s project will continue to document the living and working conditions of the garment workers. He wants his photographs to pressure powerful global brands to pay fair prices so that labor and safety standards can be implemented in these dangerous factories, bringing an end to the exploitation of 3 million workers.

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