1134 – lives not numbers

A group exhibition dedicated to the lost garment workers of Bangladesh.

Photo: Taslima Akhter
Photo: Taslima Akhter

Still haunted by the memories. When I close my eyes I see the procession of corpses, following me behind, taunting my sense of responsibility. 24th April, 2013, Rana Plaza collapses, 1134 lost to senseless greed, lives lost due to collective negligence. A dark day in the history of garments workers lives, a nightmare which will terrorize us for the rest of our lives. Amongst the rubble, hidden beneath the stones, beams and bricks, thousands of workers lie enveloped in darkness, their dreams crushed under the weight of our negligence.

Continue reading “1134 – lives not numbers”

Silver threads, frayed seams

Until

Garment workers on their way to work, early in the morning, in Dhaka. Bangladesh earns more than $12 billion in garment exports, mainly to the United States and the European Union. The sector has employed about 2 million workers, mostly women, with the official minimum monthly wage for a new garment worker starting at 3,000 takas ($45). Dhaka, Bangladesh. September 12, 2012.

Continue reading “Silver threads, frayed seams”

Taslima Akhter's photo in Time top 10 of 2013

Taslima Akhter
Taslima Akhter. Savar Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 24, 2013.

April 24, 2013, still remains fresh in my memory. At 9 AM when I got the news, I rushed to Rana Plaza. That morning I did not understand what a brutal thing had happened, but within hours I grasped the enormity and horror of it. The day passed with many people helping survivors and taking photos. At midnight there were still many people. I saw the frightened eyes of the relatives. Some were crying. Some were looking for their loved ones.

Around 2 AM among the many dead bodies inside the collapse, I found a couple at the back of the building, embracing each other in the rubble. The lower parts of their bodies were stuck under the concrete. A drop of blood from the man’s eye ran like a tear. Since then, this couple remains firmly in my heart. So many questions rose in my mind. What were they thinking at the last moment of their lives? Did they remember their family members? Did they to try to save themselves?

I keep asking myself whether the dreams of these people do not matter at all. Are they not worthy of our attention because they are the cheapest labor in the world? I have received many letters from different corners of the world, expressing solidarity with the workers. Those letters inspired me so much, while this incident raised questions about my responsibility as a photographer. My photography is my protest.

More than ever, photography has become the predominant means for us to communicate. An absolutely astounding number of pictures are shared every single day — half a billion, and rising. And yet somehow, even amid this colossal torrent of imagery, the best pictures rise to the top.

Our top ten photographs of 2013 celebrate a variety of images from a multitude of photographers, including seasoned photojournalists Tyler Hicks (the Westgate Mall Massacre in Nairobi), Philippe Lopez, (Super Typhoon Haiyan’s destructive wrath upon the Philippines), and John Tlumacki, for his extraordinary coverage of the terror bombing at the Boston Marathon.

The news has introduced to us several emerging photographers this year, including Mosa’ab Elshamy who documented the bloody demonstrations in Cairo’s Rabaa Square, and Daniel Etter, who made an iconic photograph during the Turkish uprising. In late April, activist and photographer Taslima Akhter made the single most haunting photograph of the fire that killed more than 1000 in a Bangladeshi garment factory: a final embrace. Although she has spent months trying to learn the names of the victims shown in that unsettling, moving picture, Akhter has been unable to identify them.

In September, TIME published a set of images recording a brutal execution in Syria; at the time, we withheld the photographer’s name for security reasons. Now, he has decided to come forward for the first time. He is Emin Özmen, a Turkish photographer awarded a World Press Photo prize in 2012 for his images of torture in Aleppo. The execution pictures he made over the course of one day in the midst of the Syrian cataclysm bear witness to that war’s unspeakable, and ongoing, atrocities.

Photographer Peter van Agtmael has spent many years documenting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their aftermath. In June, he made a touching portrait of an Iraqi war veteran-turned stand-up comedian, Bobby Henline, as part of a photo essay and documentary film for TIME.

David Jenkins captures an astounding photograph of a great white shark near Seal Island, South Africa whose prey, the great fur seal, looks to have gotten away. You’ll have to read his account to find out.

Early in the year, Tim Holmes, his wife and five grandchildren took refuge in the sea bordering their property when a wild brush fire swept through their Australian coastal town. Holmes took a harrowing picture with his mobile phone to send to his daughter as proof that they were all okay. While Holmes is not a news photographer, his picture is testament to the power of the mobile phone and the fact that some of the most newsworthy and emotional pictures can be made by normal citizens in the midst of a breaking story.

We spoke to each of the 10 photographers about the image that he or she shot; their words provide the captions accompanying the photos in the gallery above.

In the next few weeks, TIME.com will roll out our year-end photo specials. For the third year in a row, we’ll present our annual “365: Year in Pictures” gallery — a comprehensive look at the strongest picture from each and every day of 2013; the Most Surprising Pictures of the Year; TIME’s best photojournalism and portraiture from 2013 and TIME’s choice for the Wire Photographer of the Year. TIME’s Senior Photo Editor, Phil Bicker, is curating many of these galleries with help from the photo team at TIME. Bicker’s discerning and nuanced eye is responsible for the curation of TIME’s Pictures of the Week  — galleries that present surprising and occasionally offbeat photographs from around the globe. We hope you will enjoy the selections and keep watching for updates through the end of 2013. Think we missed something? Tell us your favorite photo of 2013 using #TIME2013.

Finally, I’m especially proud to announce that our upcoming Dec. 23rd issue of TIME will be dedicated fully to the art and power of the photograph in 2013. Stay tuned…


Kira Pollack is TIME’s Director of Photography. Follow her on Twitter @kirapollack.

Justice Still Elusive in Factory Disasters in Bangladesh

by Jim Yardley. The New York Times

DHAKA, Bangladesh ? Inside Courtroom 21, the two judges peered down from high wooden chairs as lawyers in formal black robes presented their motions. Activists and victims watched from the back. And a few steps away, a portly man with a thick black beard remained silent. He was the suspect. He did not seem especially nervous. Continue reading “Justice Still Elusive in Factory Disasters in Bangladesh”

Murder not tragedy

An exhibition of observations, both witnessed and imagined of the Rana Plaza collapse.

©Suvra Kanti Das

24th April, 2013. 1127 garment workers perished in the collapse of Rana Plaza in Savar. Excluding natural disasters this is the single largest cause of death, post-independence. Hundreds of workers have been injured. Hundreds still missing.

The rescue operation at Rana Plaza continued for 21 days. The loved ones of the victims held their vigil without respite, twenty four hours a day, scrambling from Odhor Chondro Park to Enam Clinic, to the morgue and back. As tiring bodies wore down, they slept in nearby coffins. It is of course a tragedy of enormous proportions, but by calling it a tragedy, we are shielding the guilt. Making it appear as if no one was to blame. That this is the destiny of the poor and the downtrodden. Is that how it was?

The history of the garment industry in Bangladesh is littered with incidents of fire and collapsed buildings. 27 workers were trampled to death in Sharaka Garments in 1990, while trying to flee a fire. There have been many deaths since, some through faulty construction, some due to the absence of fire exits. The fire in Lucas Garments took away 10 lives in 1995. 14 died in Suntex Garments in 1996. 22 in Rahman and Rahman Garments in 1997. Another 27 in Tamanna Garments the same year. We lost 53 in Chowdhury Knitwear Limited in 2000. It is a longer list including the recent fire in Tazreen Fashions, with Rana Plaza being the latest addition.

Drik had invited photographers, activists and other artists to submit work and register their protest. Their observations, recorded and imagined, form the basis of this exhibition. Murder, not tragedy.

The exhibition “Tragedi Noi Hottakando” will be opened at Drik Gallery tomorrow Friday, 31 May 2013 at 5 pm. The exhibition will continue till 5 June 2013. Please get your friends, family and clients to come and voice their support. This cannot, must not, go on.

Reshma alive! After 17 days under rubble.

Reshma pulled out alive: bdnews24.com

Reshma, who was spotted alive under the debris of collapsed Rana Plaza on Friday afternoon was pulled out safely and rushed to Combined Military Hospital (CMH).

She was miraculously located alive under the rubble after 16 days of the worst ever building collapse tragedy in Bangladesh’s history.

Earlier, rescuers found her after hearing a feeble voice under the debris. A rescuer from Bangladesh Army identified the woman as one ‘Reshma’.

She has fought all odds to survive the catastrophe for 17 days, even as the rescuers had lost hope of finding anyone alive under the debris weeks ago.

The rescuer said they could talk to her. “After being located she was given food, water and oxygen.” She was then pulled out alive.

After giving up hope of finding anyone alive under the wreckage, the rescuers had pressed heavy machinery to clear the debris on April 28.

But only the next day on April 29, the rescuers found one ‘Shahina’ alive under the debris. But she could not be rescued as she died in a fire that had broken out at the wreckage site a few hours after she was spotted.

The nine-storey commercial block, Rana Plaza, collapsed on Apr 24 leaving over a thousand people, mostly garment workers, dead.

Bangladesh’s Worst Industrial Accident: Scenes From a Terrifying Tragedy

A Muslim priest leads a crowd in prayers offered to unclaimed bodies from the building that collapsed last week in preparation for a mass burial on Wednesday, May 1, 2013, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Several hundred people attended the mass funeral in a Dhaka suburb for 18 unidentified workers who died in the building housing garment factories that collapsed last week in the country’s worst industrial disaster, killing at least 402 people and injuring 2,500. ©AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

Let me see the world just one more time

They said I would need a mask. ‘The smell’ they said. It was five days into the accident.

But it was no accident. A building built illegally, of faulty construction, showing signs of rupture, had been made their prison. It eventually became their grave. More money needed to be made.

STITCHED IMAGE OF RANA PLAZA ON THE NIGHT OF 29TH APRIL 2013. © SHAHIDUL ALAM/DRIK/MAJORITY WORLD

Continue reading “Let me see the world just one more time”

Bangladesh Needs Strong Unions, Not Outside Pressure

By Fazle Hasan Abed in New York Times

RANA PLAZA, THE NINE STORIED BUILDING IN SAVAR, WHICH HOUSED SEVERAL GARMENT FACTORIES, COLLAPSED ON THE 24TH APRIL. HUNDREDS HAVE DIED AND MANY MORE ARE STILL MISSING. 29TH APRIL 2013. © SHAHIDUL ALAM/DRIK/MAJORITY WORLD

BANGLADESH, my country, is again in tears. Last week in Savar, a suburb of Dhaka, the capital, a poorly constructed building that housed garment factories and other businesses collapsed. More than 300 have been confirmed dead, and the final death toll could well exceed 700. Continue reading “Bangladesh Needs Strong Unions, Not Outside Pressure”