“Mohammed, a young boy, works from the first light of the sun, brings water, tea and equipment to the workers. Mohammed did not complete the elementary school and went to work in the mountain to help his family with some money,” Egypt-based Anas Kamal wrote on his introduction to his documentary series. Titled “White Mountain,” it’s a glimpse at the harrowing conditions that young men like Mohammed endure when working at the limestone quarries in southern Egypt.
Anas, a freelance photographer who specializes in documentary topics and daily life, made his way to the eponymous White Mountain near the city of Minya in 2017. His photo essay shows some of the processes involved with limestone quarrying, along with some brief insights on what kind of occupational hazards they bring to the workers.
From dawn to dust
As with everyone else, a work day begins early for the quarry workers. Some, like Mohammed, support the miners by bringing them food, drinks and equipment. Others work with bulky and often dangerous machines to cut away white blocks of limestone for collection later. Anas’ photos show that one thing is for sure: Everyone is covered in the dangerous white dust, from dawn to dusk.
This dust, Anas said, is just one of the perils that the workers are poorly protected against.
“The work begins after the sunrise to sunset in dangerous conditions caused by the dangerous machinery that led some workers to the total deficit, either dust stones cause them serious respiratory diseases, all for a small amount not exceeding $2 per day,” he wrote.
I actually find this to be the biggest risk of the job, so it’s great that it’s prevalent throughout Anas’ work. Showing the workers covered in fine limestone dust with little to no protective equipment (if we can even call it that) sends a powerful message about the reality of such dangerous and unrewarding work.
Slices of life in the precarious White Mountain
Another detail that I definitely appreciate in this series is the addition of quiet, slice of life elements. Scenes showing workers starting their day with a cup of tea, breaks in between tasks, and even moments of reflection heighten the human interest aspect of this story. However, I do wish he was able to capture more of that, and maybe even share more personal stories about the workers, like he did with Mohammed.
Overall, “White Mountain” makes a fine example of the power of documentary photography to open our eyes and widen our perspectives when it comes to what’s happening elsewhere in the world.
Don’t forget to visit Anas Kamal’s Behance portfolio to see more of his work.
All photos by Anas Kamal. Used with Creative Commons permission.