/ 2010 / /


  • Prize
    Gold in Photojournalism/Nature/Environmental
  • Photographer
    Vanden Driessche Thomas, Belgium
  • Website

jharia india - july 2009

It is well know that the Inuits have ten or so different names to describe in a subtle way the shades of white. When you arrive in Jharia, you can't refrain of asking yourself if the inhabitants of the biggest mining region of India have a similar gift. Is it possible that these people have developed a particular vocabulary rendering all the subtle shades of black?
One thing is sure: this colour is quiet valuable for them! In this region, they used the hindi word "Kalaheera", "the black diamond", when they speak of the coal.

More than 100.000 live in Jaharia, a small town next to Dhanbad, the capital of the state of Jharkhand.

As a result of bad mining habits since a century huge underground coal fires have spread in the region. It's the equivalent of a volcano that is growing under the city of Jharia. The imminence of a humanitarian crisis is there. The Indian government is well aware of the situation but it seems not ready to allocate enough funds to relocate the communities at risk.

But in Jharia, they are not ready to leave without any guaranties. The huge majority of the population is working in the coal business (for the government, private companies or the local mafia). It's an hostile environment but at least they have a job and even for some of them housing facilities offered by their employer.

In Jaharia, they are ready to die in a dark pit to give something to eat to their family, but not to be shot like a dog by the mafia. So when murders are on the increase, they explode with anger. Then the streets of Jharia and Dhanbad resonate of slogans and insults that strangely do not accuses the murderers but well the police and the local authorities that have abandoned the city to let it to its fate.

Thomas Vanden Driessche was born in Leuven in 1979. Holder of a master's degree in journalism and a master's degree in humanitarian management, he has been working for the United Nation Development program in Morocco, for the Belgian Red Cross and for the International Committee of the Red Cross Delegation to the European Union and the NATO. Freelance photographer working regularly for the Belgian news magazine Le Vif L'Express since 2010, Thomas joined Out Of Focus in February 2011 and his since early 2012 a nominee photograph in the french agency Picturetank.
Strongly attached to the "New Documentary Tradition", his photography is often frontal and tries to split up reality with a special emphasis on portrait.
His most recent photographic series tackle Contemporary India and its fast growing economy. Thomas is also working on a long-term project on some forms of trivialization of violence in Europe.
Rewarded with a "Parole Photographique" price in 2009 and five PX3 awards in 2010-2011, his work has been recently displayed in Paris (MK2 Library, Gare de l'Est, Galerie Dupon), in Lille (Transphotographiques 2011) and in Brussels (Palais des Beaux-Arts, The Egg). In 2011, Thomas was invited to be a jury member of the prestigious "Visa d'or Humanitaire" awards.
Thomas lives and works for the moment in Brussels