Photojournalism - NOMINEE: Daro Sulakauri
The Black Gold
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Walking in the City of Chiatura in a hot weather is almost like a misty dance floor of a club. Manganese dust looks as if it is visible due to open pit mines. The main river Kvirila, which flows through the whole town is poluted as the remnants of the ore are flushed down. The grey City’s entrance seems abandoned at first, but once you look up and see rusted 60 year old cable cars going up and down the mountains you are magnetized; “When we hear a cranky sound on the wire during the transportation , we know it has to be fixed and we fix it”, says a woman who has worked as a Cable car conductor for 20 years. 60 year old Cable cars have never been replaced. It was built during the Soviet era, as a purpose for the mineworkers to transport up and down the mines.
There are approx 3,400 people working as mineworkers with 8-12 hours of work, with monthly salary of approx. $270. Throughout the years there have been massive and small protests against harsh conditions, low salaries and mass dismissal of employees. Several cases of death rose a question of how safe it is for people to work in the mines, deep in the ground with equipment that have never been upgraded since installment, dated back in the 50’s.
Many miners are originally from the villages on the surface of the tunnels, so to feed their families they are digging and exploding under their own homes, in the search for Manganese. Inside the tunnels the water drips, there is a lack of oxygen, because of the poor ventilation system. After the explosion of the soil the chemicals stay in the tunnel. Mineworkers endure the hard labor to support their families.
Chiatura City has the largest manganese reserve in Georgia. Being a mineworker is mostly the only choice for a job in the City. The younger generation slowly make their way to the Capital for a better future, but many stay and follow the footsteps of their Parents.
My story focuses on the lives of mineworkers who face the everyday challenge working under harsh conditions. As well as the daily life of the locals and young generation, who despite the many components that are missing to live a happy life, still stay in Chiatura, as their love of the City never fades.
Daro Sulakauri (b. 1985, Tbilisi) is a Photojournalist based in Republic of Georgia. After obtaining a degree in Cinematography in the Tbilisi, she moved to New York to study photojournalism at the International School of Photography (ICP). Before graduating in 2006, she was awarded the John and Mary Phillips Scholarship as well as recognized by the ICP Director's Fund. Upon finishing, she returned to the Pankisi Gorge in her native Caucasus nation of Georgia and continued Photojournalism. In 20-09 She won the second place of the Magnum Foundation's Young Photographer in the Caucasus award, in her photo story "Terror Incognita", documenting a plight of Chechen refugees on the territory of Georgia.
In 2013, She Received the CSI (Civil Society Institute) award for the Best photo for Journalism. In 2009 was featured in the American Photography 25 book, Social Documentary's best of 2008, honorable mentions in the PX3 and B&W Awards.
Daro was recognized as PDN's 30 emerging Photographers to watch in 2011. In 2013 shortlisted for Magnum Foundation Emergency Photographers fund and selected in 30 Under 30/Women Photographers in 2014.
Sulakauri won Vienna Photo Festival for her photo story "Double Aliens" on ethnic minorities in Georgia and in 2015 was awarded in by Human Rights House (HRH) in London for best portrait.
She recently became a finalist at 7th Julia Margaret Cameron Award in Documentary and Editorial Category and the winner of LensCulture Visual Storytelling Awards in mini-series.
Her work was exhibited worldwide and published in Forbes (USA), Mother Jones, Sunday Times, New York Times, Saveur, The Economist, Bolshoi Gorod, Vision, Bloomberg, Liberali, and other...
Since 2015 Daro Sulakauri has been the founder and a member of Georgian photo agency ERROR IMAGES.