Entry Title: "Exodus"
Name: Michael Crook , United States
Category and Expertise: Other_ARC|Deeper Perspective, Professional


Entry Description: Sidoarjo, Indonesia. In 2006, an Indonesian gas drilling company called Lapindo, struck an underground natural reservoir of toxic gas and mud. The subsequent explosion and toxic mudflow completely buried 12 villages and displaced hundreds of thousands of working class Indonesians. 8 years later, the mud and toxic gas is still flowing has covered over 200,000 acres in toxic mud. Surrounding communities continue to struggle because of the toxic gas and polluted soil. Lapindo and the Indonesian government have done little by way of compensation. These photographs are of abandoned homes in the nearby village of Desa Pologunting. The government required the occupants to leave their homes because of the toxicity levels in the soil. The occupants dismantled their homes in order to build new ones with the salvaged materials because were not compensated financially and could not afford new building materials.

Story: Sidoarjo, Indonesia. In 2006, due to unsafe drilling practices, the Indonesian gas drilling company PT Lapindo Brantas, struck an underground natural reservoir of toxic gas and mud. The subsequent explosion and flow of toxic mud and gas from the earth completely buried sixteen villages and displaced tens of thousands of working class Indonesians. Eight years later, the mud and toxic continues to flow and has covered over 200,000 acres in toxic mud, ten meters deep. According to scientists, the mud is expected to continue flowing for 20 years more. A containment wall has been built around the site by the government to prevent the mud from doing more damage, but because the mud keeps flowing, the wall will need to be regularly expanded indefinitely. The surrounding communities, although not buried by the mud, have struggled immensely because of the toxic gas in the air and polluted soil. Many have been abandoned because agriculture has been impossible, livestock has suffered, people have no work because several major factories were buried, and many people claim serious illness and liver cancer as a result of constantly breathing in the toxic gas which is a mix of sulphur and ammonia as well as a host of other harmful chemicals. Lapindo and the Indonesian government have done little by way of compensation. Aburizal Bakrie, the owner of Lapindo, has denied responsibility and has even claimed that the mudflow was a result of an earthquake, which reputable scientists have found no truth in. Yet still, the Indonesian government has labeled the mudflow a natural disaster. These photographs are of abandoned homes in the nearby village of Desa Pologunting. The government has required the occupants here to leave their homes and land because of the unsafe toxicity levels in the soil but the government never officially oversaw the process. It was a shamefully weak attempt by the government to supposedly protect the public because he damage was so widespread and the toxicity in the soil was present far beyond this village. There was nowhere for the people to go. Unable to afford new materials, they dismantled their old homes to build new ones with the salvaged materials because they have not received adequate financial compensation. And because there was nowhere for them to go, many villagers simply built new homes across the street from their old ones. The Indonesian culture is bright and colorful. Indonesians respect their homes as sacred places. In villages like Desa Pologunting, there is a strong sense of community, but there are also deep-seeded disputes between villagers and local government officials over corrupt compensation deals and between neighbors over accusations of betrayal and disloyalty. The dark truth is in stark contrast to the bright and colorful walls that once surrounded the families who lived in these beautiful homes.

About the Artist:

Michael has a history of photographing fashion and music. Having honed her skills assisting some of the world's best photographers when she was young, she is now photographing worldwide travel, documentary and pro sports from a unique and cinematic perspective. For 7 months in 2011, she lived and worked In Italy, shooting behind the scenes in the world of professional cycling. She produced photo essays and short documentary films exploring the world's most loved cycling brands including Milani Cycles, Colnago, De Rosa, Bianchi, Fi'zi:k and more. She has covered Pro Cycling in Europe for Peloton Magazine, Paved Magazine, and CyclingFans.com. Michael is also currently a freelance documentary photographer and filmmaker for UNICEF in West Africa and recently traveled to India and Nepal to produce a documentary film for The World of Children Award Foundation. She recently traveled to Mexico for The Girl Effect as well. Michael lives in New York and is a contributor to Corbis Images for Documentary and Special Projects. She is a 2012 Communication Arts Photo Annual Winner. In 2014, Michael plans to continue traveling the world and is always eager to get her hands dirty.