Since 2005, photographer Abir Abdullah has been documenting the dangers in Bangladesh’s garment manufacturing industry. Abdullah’s mission had been to bring to light the many fire accidents and building collapses that plagued the industry because of poor building codes and shoddy construction. In March of 2013, Abdullah was awarded the prestigious Alexia Foundation Professional Grant, which would fund his continued work in Bangladesh. Then, on April 24, the Rana Plaza building collapsed, claiming at least 900 lives.
People take part in the rescue at the eight-story building Rana Plaza, which collapsed at Savar, outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 24, 2013.
“April 24th was the death anniversary of my mother,” Abdullah said of the April 24 building collapse. “I was sad and then got the news of the building collapse in the morning. Rushed to the place, saw a mini-war zone. People screaming, running to rescue the victims. I had to take photos of so many deaths and destruction. How long will we have to take these kinds of photos?”
Rescue workers carry a survivor, who was pulled out 78 hours after the building collapsed at Savar, Bangladesh April 27, 2013.
A Bangladeshi injured worker is being carried on a stretcher by fellow workers during a fire at a garment unit of Ha-Mim Group in Savar, Bangladesh, Dec. 14, 2010.
Family members mourn as they visit their burned house at the disaster site after a fire that gutted eight houses and more than 20 shops at Nimtali, Dhaka, Bangladesh, June 5, 2010.
Bangladeshi civilians help firefighters extinguish a fire at a shopping mall at New Market area, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Feb. 20, 2009.
Firefighters carry an injured person during the rescue operation. Several people died and were injured, according to a fire service report at Kawran Bazaar, Dhaka Feb. 25, 2007.
One person had to be rescued after climbing a rope during a blaze at Kawran Bazaar, Dhaka, Feb. 26, 2007.
Civilians often take part in the fire-rescue operation as volunteers in any disaster or accident, risking their lives before the arrival of official rescue groups, Feb. 1, 2006.
A fireman attempts to extinguish a fire at Kung Keng textile factory. Unsafe working conditions have led to repeated accidents. Export Processing Zone, Dhaka, Aug. 26, 2005.
Abdullah hopes his images will help pressure powerful global brands such as Walmart, Sears and many others to pay fair prices for their goods so that labor and safety standards can be implemented in the factories.
Abdullah’s work, “The Deadly Cost of Cheap Clothing: Dangers in Bangladesh’s Garment Industry”, will be on view at the Alexia Foundation’s “Eyes on the World” Exhibit, opening June 20, 2013, at 25 Central Park West in New York City.