Browsing Category 'TRAJECTORY PHOTOS'

Ilakaka Sapphire Mine Human Conveyor Belt

In the run up to the country’s first election since the coup Unknown Fields headed to Madagascar to catalogue the push and pull of economy and ecology and to trace the shadows of the world’s desires across the landscapes of this treasured island. Travelling with journalists and investigative photographers we uncovered some of the complex value negotiations that play out across this unique island and developed a series of narrative portraits told through statistics, data, predictions, projections, measurements and offsets. Text and images appear courtesy of TANK Magazine where the work was first published. Text by Sohrab Golsorkhi-Ainslie, Photography by Chris Littlewood, Footage by Toby Smith, Graphic by Unknown Fields.

Ilakaka, 2013 (c) Chris Littlewood
Sapphire miner – 22°46’53.50″S 45°6’20.37″E

Mirana stands on a pile of displaced earth in Manalobe, close to the epicentre of the relatively recent gemstone boom in Ilakaka. The ground beneath her feet conceals sapphire deposits, laid down along an ancient subterranean riverbed left over from when the island was still attached to the Indian subcontinent. One cubic metre of dirt and gravel can contain as much as a gram of sapphire – five carats’ worth – which could fetch more than $5000 internationally. Mirana is paid $2 per day to work the mine.

Brick maker – 18°56’14.84″S 47°29’54.25″E
Tsinjo stands in a rice paddy on the outskirts of the capital, Antananarivo. Once the crop is harvested each year he uses the mud to make bricks, forcing it into moulds by hand; the bricks are left in the sun to dry before being fired in stacks. The bricks drying in the sun behind him are worth 70 Ariary ($0.03). The rice field sinks lower and lower each year, until it is useless for both rice and bricks and becomes waste ground, bereft of value.

Zebu Herder – 21°50’1.70″S 46°56’9.58″E
Mahefa is a zebu herdsman from Ihosy who walked for a week with his 50 zebu to get to the Ambalavao zebu market, the second largest on the island. Along the way he and his family had to defend the herd from rustlers. For people in rural Madagascar a zebu is the highest symbol of wealth, imbued with both economic value and cultural significance. More useful to hold than cash, an adult zebu yields around 160 kilograms of meat and costs between $400 and $660 at the market. Mahefa will try to trade his adult zebu for calves to take back to Ihosy. In almost every region in Madagascar, the zebu is a key part of the culture, whether in rites of passage that involve stealing a zebu from a nearby village or sacrificial banquets held when the head of the family dies.

Gold miner – 20°37’49.64”S 47°12’5.99”E
Rakoto has dug up this rice field in Ivato, north of Ranomafana National Park, in the hope of finding tiny deposits of gold that fetch $1333 per ounce on the international market (price accurate on 14/08/13). He and his family pan the mud in specially irrigated pools on adjacent fields. Several years ago he made the calculated decision that he could make a better living searching for gold than from subsistence farming in the rice fields. Researchers at the Centre Valbio inside Ranomafana are testing pilot schemes to introduce more modern agricul-tural techniques to the region and provide alternative livelihoods mostly based on ecotourism, hoping to reduce the temptation for villagers to destroy the forest in search of food and gold.

Quarry worker – 18°12’24.32″S 49°21’26.41″E
Seven-year-old Mamy stands on a pile of rocks that he and members of his family have been salvaging for sale from an abandoned quarry near Toamasina. In the distance behind him is the Ambatovy processing plant this quarry was excavated to build. Family groups of six to eight, mostly comprising women, older men and children, work to extract the final grains of value from the waste left behind by the Ambatovy project, which has to date cost an estimated $6.9 billion.

Firewood collector – 15°17’59.40”S 50°18’26.58”E
Axe in hand, Pepe treks along the path into Masoala National Park in search of firewood, as there is no alternative fuel source. It is estimated that 150,000 hectares of rainforest are cleared each year in Madagascar, primarily for firewood and agricultural land.

Tolagnaro, 2009 (c) Chris Littlewood

Fishermen – 25° 1’7.03″S 46°59’27.57″E
The fishermen on the eastern coast of Madagascar, like coastal communities all over the country, are facing increased competition from migrants from the interior. There, the combination of a growing population and overworked arable land has forced people to the coast in search of food. The aggressive fishing techniques they employ (including the use of poison) devastate fish stocks, which are then difficult to replenish. As a result, fishermen whose knowledge of managing stocks has been handed down over generations are forced to travel further than ever along the coast and out to sea in search of fish.

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Field research from our China Seas expedition  - Jan 2014

factory fifteen 11

Embedded journalist and designer Jessica Charlesworth joined the division for the final leg of our Alien Encounters road trip from Roswell, New Mexico to the Burning Man Festival. Jessica has documented her time with the division in this long post on CORE 77. You can also follow the division prepare their expedition as we build our old school bus as a solar powered nomadic studio , then we load it up with our Burning Man survival gear, and raid Walmart for  water and supplies. You can also see all of Jessica’s photographs from the expedition in the core 77 Unknown Fields gallery.

unknown fields set up burning man film brainstorm

Photography by Jonathan Gales and Jessica Charlesworth


Photographer Vincent Fournier was invited to join Unknown Fields for the Baikonur Cosmodrome leg of our  ’From the Atomic to the Cosmic’ Expedition. Vincent recorded the journey and developed images for his ongoing Space Project work. The collaboration was published in the January 2012 issue of WIRED. Words by another Unknown Fields collaborator space designer Regina Peldszus of Spaceflightdesign.   All images are copyright Vincent Fournier.

This is where rocket jockeys get their education. The International Space School VN Chelomey is located in the Russian-administered city of Baikonur, in the southern province of Kyzylorda in Kazakhstan. Founded by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science in 1990, this state school caters to 750 students from the age of ten to 15. Baikonur is also home to Baikonur Cosmodrome, the world’s largest spaceport, built by the Soviet Union in 1955 and operated today by the Russian Federal Space Agency. The Cosmodrome is also the only spaceport to send crewed missions to theInternational Space Station.


Aerospace Classroom: The aerospace lecture room is plastered with blueprints of propulsion systems and stacked to the ceiling with cardboard templates of aerodynamic hulls, plastic mockups of spacecrafts, and prototypes. “The students learn the principles of rocket science by designing and launching models,” says aerospace teacher Victor Mazepa, 38. The models are made with composite materials and include an engine and a parachute that allows them to be launched and reused.


Today’s lesson: build a shuttle- “This is a model of the Buran shuttle [an orbital shuttle like Nasa’s Space Shuttle],” says Mazepa. “My ten-year old students build these.” Mazepa also coaches his class during rocket modelling contests.


Semyorka R-7 Monument- One of Baikonur’s main avenues is home to a full-scale mock- up of the Semyorka R-7. The 34-metre, 280-tonne missile was made by the Soviets during the cold war and was the world’s first intercontinental missile system.


In the museum- These models in the aerospace lecture room are built by the students. They include a replica of the Buk anti-aircraft missile, and a rocket model made from a plastic bottle, launched using water and pressurised gas.


Live playground experiments- In the yard stands a bust of Vladimir Chelomey. Chelomey was a mastermind of the Soviet spaceflight programme during the 60s; he designed satellites and the Proton space rocket, still in use today.


Baikonur Cosmodrome Launch Press Conference Room


Cosmonaut hotel, relaxing before launch.


Cosmonaut hotel room


The Unknown Fields Division boarding the 60 hour train across Kazakhstan to Baikonur.


The division bus slides to a halt in Barrow, Alaska, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. To find perpetual night and -25C. A community of climate scientists and Eskimos survey a changing landscape here, where supercomputers and ancient knowledge meet.



The Unknow Fields Division piled into a bus and drove 4500km through the manafactured landscapes of Western Australia’s Mining industry.

On the Burrup Pennisula 40 000yr old aboriginal rock art sits directly adjacent one of the worlds largest natural gas hubs. We sailed a boat along the coast in order to get access to the industrial landscape.

We used lightweight kites on Eighty Mile Beach to conduct aerial photographic surveys of the landscape.

The Unknown Fields Division followed the resource trail of iron ore all the way from the mine in Newman WA, along the ore train line to the port headland dock, where the red dust is hipped to China for smelting into steel. A hole in the ground in Australia builds the cities in China.