Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Photographer Brian Carlson Reveals Life
in Cemeteries of Manilla

--Feature: "The Humanitarian Brief w/Need Magazine"--

I traveled to the Philippines to do a photo story on families who live in a garbage dump and squatters who live in a cemetery. Being knee-deep in trash and watching children and teenagers pick through garbage is heartbreaking.

On arrival I teamed up with an organization called Metro Ministries, whose mission is “to bring hope to urban children through faith based and character education while addressing issues such as hunger, AIDS awareness, and child abuse.” Through them I had the opportunity to interview a woman who had been raped, gave birth to a child from that rape, and was living in the dump. They were providing this woman with food and emotional support through her struggle. I’ve been in some sad situations, the slums in Kenya and war torn Sudan, and this was equally saddening. When she began to cry after recalling what happened, I had to turn away and hold back tears. Nothing can prepare you for that. I’m currently using the interview in a multimedia story that I am producing on the garbage dump.

North Cemetery is located in Manila, the capitol city of the Philippines. Because of the country’s population and poverty, the above-ground tombs must be recycled every five years. One would expect that the government does this with highly sophisticated equipment and trained technicians. Not so. The squatters living in this cemetery clean out these graves with their bare hands, picking up skulls still covered in hair, pelvic bones, and other remains. These remains get put into bags and discarded like common waste.

I’ve seen a lot of suffering in my travels and my goal is to bring others’ suffering closer to your heart. I want you to care. I want you to help.

Metro Ministries
P.O. Box 695
Brooklyn, NY 11237

*Note: Brian Carlson submitted this story about his motivations as a photographer. It was originally posted on NEED MAGAZINE blog on May 27, 2008.

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