Photojournalist of the month: Tomislav Georgiev

Currently based in Skopje, Georgiev is a photographer who covers the least popular – and populist – subjects and contexts. It is perhaps for this reason that he is so little-known having ducked beneath even the radar of increasingly celebrated photojournalists and war correspondents. He is, however, a member of the Balkan Photographers Collective and numbers commissions from UNICEF MK, the branch based in Macedonia, as well as nationals including Le Monde and The Sunday Times. 

His most powerful work focuses on Kosovo A Power Station, a lignite power station with five units at Obilić. It is the second largest power station in Kosovo and is described as the worst single-point source of pollution in Europe and it is expected to be closed by 2017. Indeed, the A block alone emits around 2.5 tonnes of dust per hour, which exceeds EU regulation standards by some 74 times. The following are drawn from Georgiev’s series called Toxic Legacy and with their associated captions, expose a terrible insight into the lives of the people living within its shadow.

Approximately 5,000 people die each year from cancer in Kosovo. The proportion of those from family units in the Obilić area is far higher than elsewhere and surpasses worst expectations for an otherwise non-urban area. The following billboard is from the local Pristina hospital reading ‘For Good Health’:

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The power plant behind a man with his cow in the village of Dardishte. The local terrain is heavily polluted making vegetable production and grazing low yield and problematic.

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Children play near the power plant:

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Following the closure of Cesmin Lug camp near the Trepca mine in North Mitrovica, Kosovo. The camp was built close to the Trepca lead mine and smelting works. The factory was closed by order of UN administration in 2000 but the slag heaps were never cleared. As a result, the residual lead blackens the teeth of local children, affects their memory and leads to stunted growth. Their activity patterns jump from bursts of nervous hyperactivity to comatose states. Doris Nitzan of WHO said, at the time, “This is the worst ever lead poisoning that we know of in Europe”. The inhabitants from Cesmin Lug moved to the Osterode camp.

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The home of Rodna Zifkovksa with her grandchildren in Osterode camp in North Mitrovica. To limit risk of poisoning, the existent topsoil was replaced with concrete, which was later classified by WHO as “safer” than before. 600 people now live here.

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Hyra Shanini’s house is only 50 metres from the 40 year old power plant. Her only son, Kahmiron, died in December 2010 when he was thirteen years old following  brain tumour, considered directly related to environmental factors. He was initially operated on in Tirina, but Shanini was not able to afford his second operation. Here she is holding her late son’s shoes.

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While Georgiev continues to quietly document the lives of his fellow nationals, awareness of the lasting health impacts and consequences of living within the shadow of polluting giants must be raised and addressed, for the safeguarding of future generations in Kosovo.

Image credits (all): T. Georgiev.

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