Most of us would consider living knee-deep in water for days on end unfathomable. But from June through October every year, documentary photographer Jashim Salam’s house in Chittagong, Bangladesh floods five or six times per month! His shocking photographs reveal just how absurd life in his city has become.
In addition to the regular monsoon season, water level increases often attributed to climate change and rising seas have recently forced residents to adapt to life “under water”. Salam raised the floors on his ground-level home and built walls and other barriers to keep the water at bay, but it always finds a way in. It’s ruined his furniture, shut down his bathroom, and polluted his well, forcing him to boil his water or buy bottled water. Even with these precautions, his wife and their 8-year-old daughter were sickened by the last flood. Salam still knows he’s luckier than some. He can afford beds tall enough to keep his family off the floor whereas less fortunate families who usually sleep on the ground have no place to rest when the water comes in.
Salam has been documenting just what it’s like for him and his neighbors in Chittagong through two photographic series about the flooding. Water World offers an intimate look at life in his neighborhood during a flood. Water World 2 is a powerful series of portraits of people standing in their homes, or in the streets of their communities, surrounded by water.
He’s photographed children who have grown up with the flooding and now consider it a fact of life. However, subjects his age (35) and older talk about how radically the conditions of life in their communities have changed. People often blame the flooding on poor urban planning, which is a key factor, but Salam hopes to raise awareness about the larger factors by discussing climate change issues with the subjects of his photographs.
Eventually, Salam would like to publish and exhibit his work in a book internationally to contribute to the growing conversation about climate change, urban planning, and disaster prevention.
“We’re fed up with the flooding,” he says. “We can’t stay like this forever.”
See more photos and learn more about Jashim Salam’s photojournalistic work at JashimSalam.com.
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Could you imagine living in your home if it regularly flooded?