The Iron Quest
Photographer: João Coelho
Exhibit Title: The Iron Quest
About 30 km north of the capital, Luanda, dozens of iron skeletons lie in the shallows of a beach that stretches for more than 2 kilometers. It's a ship graveyard. But there is life on this beach. Every morning, a group of young people come to work here, salvaging pieces of iron from the carcasses of half-buried ships. They have to dive into the dark waters of the sediment and oil that leaks from the corroded hulls and they have no tools or boats to help them remove the heavy pieces and transport them to the beach. They depend solely on their own hands, the strength of their arms and their camaraderie and mutual help. At the end of an exhausting day's work, they divide the profits from the sale of the iron among themselves. The only certainties these young people have in life are that the smelting companies will pay them a miserable 120 dollars a ton and that the next day they will have to return to this beach so they can feed their families.
Human condition has always fascinated me and its study has been a main driver in my work. More than an aesthetic purpose, I intend my photography to arouse feelings, emotions, and convey messages, by telling stories that depict suffering or joy, despair or mutual help, strength or disappointment, or simply resilience in the face of adversity and uncertainty about the future.
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