Agbogbloshie is a suburb of Accra, Ghana and a former wetland (recreation area) surrounded by the Odaw River. About 10 years ago it started to become a dumpsite for illegal e-waste from the industrialized countries (EU, US, UK, China, India e.g.). Nowadays 500-800 shipping-containers with “donations” reach the Tema Harbour (close to Accra) every month. About 80% of these so-called donations, second-hand products or development-aids are fake labeled, because in reality the goods are no longer usable. Most of these hazard materials end up illegally in electronic dumpsites, such as Agbogbloshie. Agbogbloshie used to be known for its market, where you could buy cheap local fruits and vegetables, but the e-waste dumping turned it into a place where youngsters between 7-25 years smash stones against TVs, disassemble PCs/ Laptops and burn cables to get the copper out of it. Agbogbloshie is an environmental, ethical and social-economic disaster, as well as a major health concern. The 40,000 inhabitants themselves nicknamed this place “Sodom and Gomorrah”.
My aim was to get a more or less subjective point of view and to show the personalities of the people that (have to) work in Agbogbloshie. I have focused on the individuals for this project as opposed to the burning and processes that takes place. After an interaction with every “model”, I told them to take a near-by device and stand on top of it and look into the camera – nothing more was inﬂuenced or controlled and the shooting just took 5-10 seconds for each portrait. For me it is important to let the viewer see that I had some interaction with the people. Many documentary photographs give the viewer a feeling of separation from the subject, but I feel that it is important for a connection to be established.
The Series “Agbogbloshie” has been published in various media including The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Fox, Stern, Zeit, De Standaard, Daily Mail, and Dazed & Confused, and was featured on international TV and Radio stations.
Kevin McElvaney was born 1987 in the north of Germany, raised by a German father and Irish mother. After his A-Levels he moved to Hamburg to serve his civil-service and to study business administration, law and sociology. To ﬁnance his life as a student he freelanced for agencies and organizations, which took him around the world. This is the reason he decided to buy a camera one day – to save his impressions of places and experiences.
He has been a self-taught, freelance photographer since 2013.
Agbogbloshie is the first series he has published.