After being awarded a special prize by the Jury of the Days Japan Photojournalism Award, Luca Catalano Gonzaga ‘s reportage “The devil’s gold”, that was shot in Indonesia on the harsh living conditions of the sulphur searchers, has been published by Days Japan Magazine in its July issue.

Every day, three hundred men leave the base camp at the slopes of the mountain to reach the top of the Ijen Kawah volcano in Eastern Java, Indonesia. They climb up three kilometres and then head downwards to the opening of the crater where the sulfur crystals lie. Nine hundred meters deep towards hell, defying the unbearable heat, rare ed air and complete darkness, without any protection. The sulfurous gas hits the throat, burns the lungs, makes tears spring from the eyes. Many prefer to work at night because the heat is more tolerable, putting a wet cloth in their mouth, in the vain hope of protecting themselves from the fumes and breathing better. A very hard kind of work which will end soon – the average life expectancy of the sulfur miners does not go beyond 50 years. The sulfur slabs are broken with the help of a metal pole and then carried in reed baskets that weigh 70 to 90 kilos. Then begins the return path of the 21st century sulfur picker, heading towards the volcano’s entrance, in a precarious balance, carrying a huge load that deforms the spine, bends the legs and produces ulcers on the shoulders. All for the sake of what has always been known as “The devil’s gold”, very present in modern daily life: sulfur is used to re ne sugar, to produce sulfuric acid, and it can be found in many products of regular use such as medicines, cosmetics, matches, fertilizers, insecticides and fungicides.

The reportage “Child labour” is part of a wider project called “Invisible people” by Luca Catalano Gonzaga. This project, is carried out by Witness Image and financially supported by Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation.