The residents of Agbogbloshie, the hellish area outside of Accra, Ghana, where millions of pounds of electronic waste gets dumped, call their home and workplace “Sodom and Gomorrah.” For activist artists around the world, the waste dump and its residents have become symbols of the costs created by developed world excess. German photographer Kevin McElvaney’s new collection of photos of those waste pickers, titled Agbogbloshie, puts a very human face on an issue that we often portray.
McElvaney describes the area as “a social-economic and environmental disaster,” and takes note of the many health impacts created by unprotected gathering of valuable metals from discarded appliances and electronics. And, yet, he notes that “it feels wrong to walk around there with a sad face,” as so many of the boys who work among the waste act like normal children: laughing, dancing, playing and working together, and talking about their plans for the future.
Most don’t have much of a future, unfortunately: cancer takes many of them in their twenties. McElvaney’s photos embody both the joy and sadness, the pluck and vulnerability of these young people left with very few options other than digging through dangerous waste.
Take some time to read McElvaney’s full artist statement, as well as spend some time with the photographs available online (and, of course, the video above, which he also created). The photographer has put together a traveling exhibit, and is trying to find US locations for it; hopefully, we’ll get an opportunity to take an even closer look at this important work.
These moving photos will no doubt evoke all kinds of thoughts – if you feel like sharing any of them, head to the comments below.
Featured photo credit: Screen capture from “AGBOGBLOSHIE // STILL NOT SPONSORED” video.