Ezzat Hisham never thought he would be telling the story of one of Egypt's labour force's most downtrodden when he set out to depict Minya's limestone workers with his amateur lens.
Ezzat Hisham is an unsuspecting hero, an architecture major who found himself in Minya one early morning, surrounded by quarry workers all begging him to get their stories out there, so he obliged them.
Having seen photos of the quarries and wanting to explore them with his amateur lens, Hisham, along with some of his friends, set out to depict the lives of limestone workers in Minya with a series of photographs. "People who have gone there before me to photograph all said it was incredibly hard - due to problems between quarry owners and the army - and that the place isn't that interesting, visually," Hisham says.
A street, wedding, and events photographer, Hisham had to put his photojournalism hat on when the workers mistook him for one, and, despite his protestations, entrusted him with their grievances. He met his subjects at four o'clock in the morning in the village of Al Shurafaa where most of Minya's limestone workers live and waited with them until the pickup trucks came to take them to the quarries.
Hisham carried their message in a Facebook caption that accompanied his photo album. In it he talks about the hazardous conditions they work in; the limestone dust they breathe all day causes serious respiratory illnesses and they run the risk of amputation or even death working with heavy machinery, all for 70 to 80 EGP and a falafel a day. They start their days at the crack of dawn to work at jobs that offer them no pensions, no insurance, and no safety measure to protect them. An injury means they can never provide for their families, they can no longer support themselves; their health is their only asset and they have to put on the line day in and day out to make a living. And yet they can still muster up the contentment to resign themselves to the fact that they have to do it all over again the next morning.
(Photos: Ezzat Hisham)
Check out the photographer's work on Facebook!