In Gafsa, a phosphate mining region in the southwest of Tunisia, a state-controlled company called CPG extracts phosphate from the hills. Mining, an important economic resource to the Tunisian economy, has been practiced since Roman times. The local mining villages of Redayef, Mettlaoui, Oumm Laarayes, are rich in resources but marginalized by the government. They remain poor and polluted, a conduit for wealth. Meanwhile, coastal towns prosper.
During the French Occupation workers lured from Libya, Morocco, Algeria and around Tunisia lived on this nearly uninhabitable land. Since then, ethnic divisions, exacerbated by life in a harsh landscape, have produced disharmony between the people and nature. The region remains in a state of constant flux and volatility.
This is Zied Ben Romdhane’s testimony to the harshness of the place. This is balanced, he hopes, by the humor of the inhabitants and his affection for them. Ben Romdhane’s book is a rare feat in media space, humanizing the North African miners while building awareness of life on the other side of an international resource supply chain.
Zied Ben Romdhane began his career as a commercial photographer. In 2011, he switched to documentary photography and photojournalism. He is the Director of Photography of Fallega (2011), a documentary film about the Arab Spring in Tunisia. Ben Romdhane was a participant in World Press Photo’s 2013 Reporting Change initiative, and is a member of the collective “Rawiya” and “Native”. In 2018, Ben Romdhane published his first book, West of Life, with Red Hook Editions. He joined Magnum as a nominee in 2019.