DOCUMENTARY

PHOTOGRAPHY

PROJECT

I have an innate love of stories. And this is the reason what drew me to photography. I believe storytelling matters—it heals and teaches; it inspires and resolves; it enchants us as well as enlightens us. Since then, this has been a core pillar of my career as a photographer.

The aim of these projects is to reveal universal truths about humanity by sharing real stories of human struggles and their eventual triumph. Through these meaningful stories we see how very different people share the same life experiences and how human nature can transcend culture.

FAMILY IS WHAT KEEPS US GOING

“I try to use whatever I know about photography to be of service to the people I’m photographing.” — James Nachtwey

What would you consider your most valuable possession? My hand phone!”, answers Dipak Kumar, a Bangladeshi construction worker. “My phone has a picture of my son.”

Another migrant worker, Rahoman Saiduir, also from Bangladesh, said: 'I would never go anywhere without my phone. I look at my daughter and son picture all the time”

To survive days on end of working and living a life away from their homeland, many contemplate on their most valuable possession: a photograph. Whether a photo of a friend, a wife, or a daughter — Bangladeshi migrant workers carry these with them for their journey to Singapore.

Alam Shahin, a driver for 10 years in Singapore expresses his longing for his son, "I miss him everyday. He cries every time I call him. When he cry, I cry too.” He left his son, Shohan, to his mother's care and sends his small earnings to them regularly as a financial support.

Migration plays a crucial role in sustaining the Bangladeshi economy. Its labour migration’s long history started in the mid-70s with its government promoting international labour migration as part of an overall development plan. Since then, Bangladeshis had sought out a job overseas to escape poverty. However, working abroad has its risks. Migrant workers experience exploitation and the loss of rights in the form of low wages; they are often housed in filthy conditions, and has restricted job mobility.

As labour migration from Bangladesh have grown, migrant workers take with them these photographs of sentimental value— a valuable possession they could not let go of serves as their greatest inspiration to keep them going through each day. A little comfort to feed nostalgia.

This series is an ongoing project I'm working on. It consists of portraits of migrant workers in which the subjects pose with their hand phones with photos of loved ones who they had been separated from. One important possession they could not let go of when they left their hometown to work overseas.

There are nearly one million low-wage migrant workers in Singapore. According to Transient Workers Count Too or TWC2, a non-profit organisation in Singapore, they make up about 20 percent of the total population and are mostly employed in construction, shipyards, sanitation services, manufacturing and domestic work.

Sources:

International labour migration from Bangladesh

The Future of Labour Migration Costs

© 2019 The Photography of Melvin Mapa®. All rights reserved. All copyright solely belongs to Melvin Mapa and The Photography of Melvin Mapa. Unlawful use of any content will be prosecuted.

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