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Brick workers of Bangladesh

Joe Buergi | Bangladesh

The high chimneys along the rivers and cities pouring grey smoke into the air.

You can see them all around Bangladesh. There are hundreds of them. Some say more than 15’000. The high chimneys along the rivers and cities pouring constantly smoke into the air. Millions of bricks are burned there. But the price is high and paid by the local and from far coming workers and the environment surrounded by those factories.

Bangladesh is a rapidly urbanizing country having a 163 million population. This generates a very high amount for cheap building materials and gave brickmaking a go. 

The bricks are made almost fully by hand, using a very old technology. The work is demanding – accidents occur often and the work is hard. Workers get paid for how many bricks they produce or can carry. For the fast workers, a week’s salary can range between 10 - 15 Euros a week. Nearly one million people work for 12-14 hours a day, almost every day of the week. Many of them live in the brick factories. Near almost every factory there are villages of the workers where all the families that work inside the factories are living.

Born in 1965 in Stans, Switzerland, Joe Buergi started around 2000 with photography. He studied engineering at the Bale Institute of Technology and works now full-time as a project and team leader for the local government. As a pure autodidact, he developed the knowledge by himself but also by studying the masters. His music photography, together with travel, have become two of his life’s passions.

His photography focuses on music, culture, landscapes, and wildlife; images that reflect a spatial and temporal journey through life. He seeks the quiet moments and the light in whatever context he finds himself. He is an eclectic photographer who enjoys diversity in his imagery. Hence his images range from travel to landscapes and portraits. He believes that photography can capture those inimitable moments and empower us to make a positive change in our world. Through his travels, he has developed his own photographic style. Some say that it is unique, simple, and compelling.

His photos appeared in Terra Mater, National Geographic, VIEW,  Lens Magazine, Mensch Magazine,  AAP Magazine, and many more offline and online magazines worldwide. He is also an award-winning photographer and has won a few competitions and awards.

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