Photograph by Sebastian Sardi

Photo exhibition at Helsinki Railway Square May 25th – May 26th 2019

Helsinki Photo Festival is pleased to announce it’s forthcoming exhibition Dashed Hopes featuring works of Indonesian photographer Dilla Djalil Daniel and Swedish photographer Sebastian Sardi who are dealing with the environmental issues caused by land exploitation, narrating the stories of human and non-human lives afflicted by the actions of the mankind. Selected works are related to the aftermath of our consumerist society advancements, resulting in the daily increasing demands in the production of such cheap sources of energy as palm oil or coal. Both palm oil and coal industries significantly affect our environment.

The production of palm oil has had a devastating impact on biodiversity through the large scale conversion of tropical rain forests into palm plantations applying the clearing of land through fire, which at its turn results in massive air pollution. Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil in the world with more than 10 million hectares of oil palm plantations producing over 27 million tonnes of palm oil a year. Palm oil deforestation in Indonesia has already resulted in the deaths of thousands of orangutans, which might lead to their extinction. Being interested in documenting the complexities of relationships between animals and humans Dilla Djalil Daniel visited the Yayasan Inisiasi Alam Rehabilitasi Indonesia (YIARI) a branch of the NGO International Animal Rescue based in West Kalimantan with the main objective of rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing orangutans. There is a part of YIARI called HOC-RT (Human Orangutan Conflict Response Team) which is focusing on salvaging orangutans that have been pushed out from their natural habitat as a consequence of land clearing for agriculture purposes related to the palm oil industry. The photographs of orangutans Dilla captured in YIARI natural resorts are penetrated with love, raising empathetic feelings towards the animals and triggering thoughts concerning our actions on this planet.

Photograph by Dilla Djalil Daniel

Sebastian Sardi’s works regard the current coal industry issues including the impact on our environment. Along with water and air pollution, hundreds of millions of tons of solid waste products containing heavy metals such as mercury are produced annually by coal burning. Strip mining severely alters the landscape, eliminating existing vegetation, displacing or destroying wildlife and habitat. For the past decade, Sardi has been capturing major mining sites around the world, visiting mines in the world’s largest producers of coal such as China, Russia, Kazakhstan, and India. In the latter, he discovered Dhanbad – a place being cluttered up with a huge amount of coal fields and strip mines, commonly known as the “capital of coal”. Everything there is cloaked with a solid overlay of fine dust, creating a truly apocalyptic landscape. The ground is burning, resulting in the overflow of toxic gases and smoke affecting a huge area. Workers are digging coal there almost with their bare hands and without any specific gear or even masks. It is needless to say that these kinds of settings are highly dangerous to inhabitants health, even life-threatening. In his photographs, Sardi eloquently captures the villagers who work and live in these toxic conditions. He aims to portray the implicit beauty and grace veiled underneath the coal dust and dirt on the faces of that hard-working men, women and children.

Helsinki Photo Festival is therefore wishing to contribute to the environmental debates and raise awareness of the issues described above with the selection of photographic works created by Dilla and Sardi presented in the Dashed Hopes exhibition.