It’s just by chance that I came to take these photos. A friend, researching online, found a place called Egret Island, in a village called Hengxi. I had planned to take photos of the egrets, but after arriving there not only did I not find them, but found a brick kiln instead. I’ve always wanted to know how bricks are made and to take photos of the process, and thus I ended up spending four weeks there.
Brick Kiln Synopsis:
The kiln seen in this post is a wheel kiln, also known as a ring kiln, a kind of continuous kiln. The locals say it’s the kind that you pay for with your life. The organization and operation of of wheeled kilns, when compared with tunnel kilns, means they produce less, are less efficient, have poorer working conditions, and require more intensive labour. For this reason, in 1999, national industry policy decreed that ceramic wheel kilns were to be eliminated as obsolete designs.
The workers that make a living here (there are also some child laborers between 10 and 20 years old) simply work too hard, every day in the heat they carry tons of unfired bricks and finished product, working day and night. They have no work insurance, or days off. They work every day in the heat, dust and sweat.
The kiln workers’ living conditions are appalling. The kiln’s women and children likewise endure the same hardships on the brickyard.
The red brick kiln looks old, ashy, dusty, and neglected, but speaking as a photographer, once you’ve selected your angle and composition, after using a wide-angle, you will be stunned by the image of the warm domes, a kind of unexpected scale and size.
Of course, as a documentary photographer, the artistry of the picture and the fate of the workers, as well as the ordinary common people’s living conditions, cannot be compared.
Thoughts While Reviewing Photographs:
Looking at the pictures while looking online for information, it turns out that this fiery red kiln was built on what was originally farmland. that the villagers’ complaints have, to this day, not been addressed (see additional image), and that there are signs that the brick kiln also uses child labour (see additional image). After the illegal and serious labor problems of some “black” [illegal] brick kilns in Shanxi province were exposed, it gained the close attention of President Hu Jintao and other high-level leaders of the central government. It looks like in some far-off areas, this problem still exists. But if that’s the case, what about the local party officials under whose nose this is going on? Where are the management practices of the local government with regard to enterprises in the village? Do they even care after they receive payment?