In the State of Jharkhand, northeast of India, the Damodar Valley became a hell on Earth. The open-cast coal mines have been continuously active for over a century. The extraction of the “black diamond” destroyed the valley’s fauna and flora. A huge underground fire has been burning for more than eighty years, producing enormous quantities of carbon dioxide. All efforts to put this fire out have been in vain. In the suffocating hostility of this environment, a miserable population sacrificed to the economic development of India works and survives de spite the many diseases caused by the toxic atmosphere. The lucky ones are employed by mining companies. For a dollar a day, men and women break the coal that they carry in wicker baskets on their head to load the trucks. The majority of them gather by thousands before dawn to illegally collect the coal before selling it at the black market.
French-American, Valerie Leonard travels the world following her theme, “Labours of Hercules”, where she attempts to show the dignity of men and women living and working in particularly hostile environments. She takes the time to live with the people and be fully accepted before starting her work. She waits for the right moment, the right light to tell the truth, but in terms of beauty. She thus wishes to shed light on a forgotten humanity.