The Devil’s gold

by Luca Catalano Gonzaga

In the mouth of the Lien Kawah Volcano in Eastern Java, in Indonesia.  miners descend in search of “devil’s gold”. as Sulphur gets called there since ever. Three hundred men reach the volcano’s top by foot from its base camp at the foot of the mountain every day. They clamber up three kilometers before beginning their descent to the edge of the crater where the sulphur crystals can be found. Nine hundren meters down towards hell, they dare to face the terrible heat, the lack of oxygen and the darkness with no modern equipment.  The sulphur gas burns their throat and lungs and makes eyes water. Only a few miners own old gas masks: many of them prefer to work at night when the temperatures are lower, and wear a wet rag over their mouth under the illusion that they will be protected from the fumes and will be able to breathe a little better. A hard work that will end early; life expectancy for these miners does not exceed the age of fifty. Sheets of sulphur are broken with the help of metal bars and then loaded into wicker baskets weighing 70-90 kilos. each Then, the return trip of the Sulphur miners back to the 21st century begins; trudging under the terrible weight, fighting to keep their balance on their way out of the mouth of the volcano, their spines curving, their shoulders lacerated and their legs bent because of the heavy weight. Finally, the sheets of Sulphur are delivered for the process of purification that takes place during the night and lasts fourteen hours. All this hell for five dollars a day. Ten for those who are able to make the trip twice in a day. (text by Luca Catalano Gonzaga).


A selection of photos from the archive of Luca Catalano Gonzaga is available as collector’s prints. The goal of print selling is to contribute to the realization of the photographic projects of Witness Image that narrate the great transformations of our time.