Shipbreaking

If you haven't seen the film Manufactured Landscapes then please find a way. It's a documentary on the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky.�His photos, and this film about them, show many of the unseen processes of the extraction-manufacturing-shipping-waste cycle. It's a work that smacks you out of frivolity and deep into a meditation on the state of things. At one point the film follows him to the shipbreaking yards of Chittagong, Bangladesh. It reminded me to dig up by own photos of this same place, taken in late 1997, just found them in a shoebox, here they are. Short explanation in case you never heard of this place: A number of scrap steel companies own pieces of these tidal oceanic mud-flats. The companies bid on obsolete or exhausted cargo ships. The ship are piloted with a skeleton crew to the bay of bengal. At the moment of the monthly high tide they drive ship at top speed towards the coast, going aground in the mud. As the tide recedes the scrap company dispatches an army of desparate men who rip the ship into pieces by hand, using nothing but oxy-acetylene torches and sledge-hammers. The pieces are carried by teams who chant to keep synchronized as they wade through the thigh-high mud and oil sludge. In Stereofonic Streetscape Blowout from Dirty Bomb you can hear the sound from those two fotos of the tower being ripped from the top of the ship. There is only a short usable bit of recording because I lost my senses and yelled something like "holy fucking shit" over most of it. After about an hour onsite I was expelled by some security thugs. They didn't want people documenting the shipbreaking yards because it's a notorious environmental and labor disaster. For me it also illustrates a larger theme- �about how we make, transport, and discard things, about relative values and hidden costs, about the grand works of man and their undoings.