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There are some things that happen in your life that you'll never forget..
and I wouldn't want to..
I was an environmental landscape photographer in a past life and I’ve taken lots of photos. But even though I didn’t take a photo of what I’m about to tell you, I can still remember every single detail.
I was in the middle of a remote village on a scorching hot day. I could taste the dust in the air as a cattle truck had just driven past me, billowing dust behind it. Ahead of me, I could see children playing soccer in a dust cloud of their own.
The scene was beautiful and the photographer in me was saying “take the photo”....
But something felt off. So I started walking closer.
With just shorts, no shoes or shirts, the children were playing soccer but not the way you see on TV. They were really struggling to even get to the ball.They were using shop windows and awning poles to support themselves.
And as the dust settled, I saw...they had deformed limbs.
I was in this town because I wanted to create a photographic series about industrial pollution. The person showing me around, to help me find the best spots to photograph, tried to usher me away. But I wouldn’t go.
I needed to know why they had such terrible deformities.
“Basically, their mothers got lead poisoning while they were pregnant!. But it’s okay! Most of the children are deformed and they get along just fine! They have each other!!”
As you can imagine, I just stared at my guide, gob-smacked.
“It’s okay? They get along? They have each other? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!”
I was so heartbroken, I couldn’t even take a photo. These children were paying the price for our consumption and our choices. And honestly… they were paying the price for MY consumption and MY choices.
Realising that hurt on so many levels, and it still does.
I couldn't change their situation but how could I change this or prevent this, what was the solution? What could I do?
I didn’t want to continue photographing such terrible scenes, standing on the sidelines thinking that my photos would be enough to change the world.
My photos weren't changing anything. What I was doing wasn’t good enough.
I had to somehow tackle the biggest problems in industry, and the world.
In March 2013 I took action and changed careers to build the most sustainable and ethical fashion business I could. I was met head on by some of the biggest problems in the industry.
Suppliers wouldn’t tell me what my fabrics were made of.
Manufacturers wouldn’t tell me what their working conditions were like.
I even had samples arrive that smelt like toxic fumes.
In the end, I just had to say “f#&^ it” and start from scratch.
A lot has happened since then but that experience that made me question everything I was doing, and a turning point that I'll never forget.