The Last Embrace

On the 24th April 2013 the ‘Rana Plaza’ a factory in Savar, Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,129 people and injuring over 2,500 more. I remember seeing this photo then and being unable to control my eyes from welling up; it is harrowing and heart wrenching yet incredibly beautiful.

This final embrace was chosen as one of TIME’s Top 10 Photos of 2013 and rarely have I seen a photo that has had such a powerful and emotive effect, especially in an age where we have become largely immune to images of the world’s horrors. I think this is because this couple have ceased to be just a number and a statistic in an incomprehensible disaster; the tragedy is that it is only in death that they have been appreciated as such.

The Savar disaster quite rightly provoked a outcry against workers conditions in third world countries and international corporations roles and responsibilities in ensuring an ethical supply chain is enforced.  There must be continued efforts to make sure that the promises were made in the aftermath of the disaster are kept so another 1,129 lives are never wasted again.

Taslima Akhter. Savar Dhaka, Bangladesh. April 24, 2013. 

“April 24, 2013, still remains fresh in my memory. At 9 AM when I got the news, I rushed to Rana Plaza. That morning I did not understand what a brutal thing had happened, but within hours I grasped the enormity and horror of it. The day passed with many people helping survivors and taking photos. At midnight there were still many people. I saw the frightened eyes of the relatives. Some were crying. Some were looking for their loved ones.

Around 2 AM among the many dead bodies inside the collapse, I found a couple at the back of the building, embracing each other in the rubble. The lower parts of their bodies were stuck under the concrete. A drop of blood from the man’s eye ran like a tear. Since then, this couple remains firmly in my heart. So many questions rose in my mind. What were they thinking at the last moment of their lives? Did they remember their family members? Did they to try to save themselves?

I keep asking myself whether the dreams of these people do not matter at all. Are they not worthy of our attention because they are the cheapest labor in the world? I have received many letters from different corners of the world, expressing solidarity with the workers. Those letters inspired me so much, while this incident raised questions about my responsibility as a photographer. My photography is my protest.”

For the other entries for the Top Photos of 2013, visit TIME Lightbox.

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