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Images of the Sulfur Miners on the Ijen Volcano in Indonesia


Daily tons of of males climb the 9,000 ft to the summit of Mount Ijen situated in Java, Indonesia after which trek 3,000 ft down into the crater to interrupt slabs of sulfur. Every load of sulfur is round 100-135 kilos, which is the approximate whole physique weight of the miners.

Many of those males don’t put on gasoline masks and carry their a great deal of sulfur up a steep volcano sporting sandals versus sneakers. By way of a translator, most of the employees instructed me that they’ve well being and respiratory points in addition to again deformities whereas solely incomes the equal of $5 to $10 U.S. {dollars} a day.

I met an outdated man in his 70s that earned $5 for a day’s wage of back-breaking work. I encountered a younger man in his 20s who had a bandage wrapped round his head resulting from a fallen rock that fractured his cranium. These are just some of the tales that inhabit Mount Ijen and the resiliency of spirit that I encountered.

I spent shut to 2 weeks photographing the sulfur miners after being impressed by photographers like James Nachtwey and Sebastião Salgado who’ve additionally been to the identical hallowed grounds documenting the human situation.

As a psychological well being therapist, I notice that progress occurs once we put ourselves into uncomfortable conditions and run in the direction of the issues that we worry essentially the most. That is the rationale why I needed to journey to this distant place and spend the time to really see this a part of the world that I’ve solely skilled by the lens of different photographers that I’ve admired.

A typical day would start leaving in the course of the night time to get to the mountain a little bit earlier than dawn. At that time, I’d keep for almost all of the day photographing the folks lengthy after the vacationers have left.

Regardless that I wore a gasoline masks, the sulfur burned by my lungs and I used to be coughing nearly all of the time. I cannot think about somebody spending 12 months after 12 months inhaling that poisonous gasoline and the harm it does to 1’s well being after years of abuse.

What new might be stated that hasn’t already been stated earlier than in regards to the folks of Mount Ijen? It has been covered quite a bit by photographers higher than I. I stay in a rustic that’s extraordinarily divided amongst a number of aspects: America. Nonetheless, if there may be one reality that I’ve discovered all through my travels is that regardless of our non secular, financial, and racial variations, we’re extra alike than we’re completely different.

That is evident after I was instructed that the more serious worry that these males undergo is that their kids would find yourself doing the identical laborious work as them. All dad and mom need their kids to stay higher lives than them, particularly coming from an immigrant background. All of us need some semblance of dignity to carry onto.

It’s a quite simple concept, however I hope my pictures can one way or the other categorical that love transcends the variations in our lives and might truly carry us nearer collectively than divide. I imagine within the energy of pictures. As I get a little bit bit older it could be too naive to assume images can catalyze “change” however maybe it could actually encourage a little bit little bit of empathy.


In regards to the writer: Wesley Du is a visible journalist documenting the human situation. The opinions expressed on this article are solely these of the writer. You will discover extra of Du’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram.



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