ICJB would like to recognise the achievement of Alex Masi, the winner if the 2012 FotoEvidence Book Award, who spent a considerable amount of time in Bhopal documenting the lives of the victims of the disaster. The culmination of his efforts is the publication of his book, "Bhopal Second Disaster", to be launched on the 26th of August, 2012, at VII Gallery in Dumbo, NY. We caught up wtih Alex to talk to him about his work in Bhopal.
ICJB: How did you learn about the Bhopal campaign and what made you want to center your work on it?
AM: In January 2008, I traveled to India to visit some of the country’s most polluted places to collect images on various issues affecting society’s poorest and under-represented people. My topics ranged from extreme poverty to industrial hazards, from child labor to rural life, from water contamination to birth defects, and urban slum dwellers.
I first visited Bhopal in April 2009. After learning more about the disaster, I decided to begin documenting what I call the 'Second Disaster' - the water pollution affecting the residents living near the abandoned industrial site of Union Carbide (Image inset), and its effects on children.
ICJB: Could you tell us a little bit about your book –“Bhopal Second disaster” which is to be launched in October?
AM: The book is the result of the 2012 FotoEvidence Book Award. It showcases many of my images documenting the problem of water pollution, the activities of Sambhavna Trust and Chingari Rehabilitation Center, as well as daily life in Bhopal, 27 years after the disaster.
In addition to the images it includes an interview where I talk about my long-term project and a foreword written by Indra Sinha, the illustrious author of 'Animal's People', a touching novel focusing on Bhopal - shortlisted for the prestigious 2007 Man Booker Prize.
'Bhopal Second Disaster' will be sold through FotoEvidence, its publisher, after its launch on August 26, 2012 in the VII Gallery in Dumbo, New York, with an exhibition of my work together with 4 other finalists. The book will initially be released as a hard cover (12x8 inches) and later on in an Ipad version.
To stay tuned as the exhibition and on the book launch, connect to my Facebook Page
ICJB: What impact do you anticipate the book will have?
AM: While producing my long-term photographic work in Bhopal, I strove to portray my subjects with intimacy, meaning and depth. I wanted to convey emotions, to stimulate our deeper and most innate feelings, our senses of justice, compassion and brotherhood, in the hope of becoming an active catalyst for the promotion of awareness, action and change for the people of Bhopal.
I sincerely believe that publishing my collection of images from Bhopal in this book: 'Bhopal Second Disaster', will allow me to reach, inform and engage a larger public than ever before, in positive and proactive ways.
I believe that photography is a powerful tool to inform and challenge the audience on a personal, intimate level. Images can foster direct action by passionate and committed individuals, as well as by governments, policy-makers, groups and organisations.
ICJB: Your next project is your own charity – “A better tomorrow”. Could you tell me a little bit about that?
AM: That's true, I am in the process of registering ‘A Better Tomorrow‘ as a ‘Small Charity‘ in the United Kingdom – attracting funds not exceeding a total of 5000 UK£ per year, before being able to apply to The Charity Commission for England and Wales, and become an official Charity.
In April 2011, The Photographers Giving Back Awards, based in Sweden, offered me a grant of 5000 USD, entirely aimed for the creation and implementation of a plan benefitting Poonam, and to also help her family overcome extreme poverty.
A collection of 'Limited Edition Art Prints', 'Open Edition Prints' and donations, will fund Poonam, Jyoti, and Ravi’s education until Year 12, and beyond to college, as well as a number of socio-educational initiatives for the children living in Oriya Basti, and in the other water-affected colonies of Bhopal.
My local initiatives will focus mainly on the education (and training) of needy children living in the water-affected colonies of Bhopal. In the beginning, this will be carried out by commissioning small, specific projects to a trusted NGO in Bhopal. I am in talks with The Bhopal Medical Appeal to understand whether Chingari Trust could take on such collaborative role.
'A Better Tomorrow' is therefore a small personal initiative, which I wanted to make official, presenting a modern approach where I will be able to give something back, as a photographer, by selling my own prints from this city, in order to help my subjects in a more direct way.
*All the images published with this interview are copyrighted to Alex Masi.