Valerie Leonard: documenting the human face to the environmental crisis

Valerie Leonard (pictured above)

Valerie Leonard is an award-winning documentary photographer focused on human and environmental issues. Her mission to capture the dignity of people that live and work in difficult conditions has taken her to places like the open coal-pits in North East India, the Sulphur Mines in Indonesia and the towering landfill sites nestled within the Himalayas.

Her work has been featured in a host of globally-known publications like National Geographic, The Guardian and Huffington Post and her images have been the winner of countless awards.

We spoke to Valerie on Green Canvas Podcast. You can find our conversation via this link.

Here are some images from her projects and a brief description about them.

Black Hell, 2016, Jharkhand, Damodar Valley, India

In Damodar Valley, in the Indian state of Jharkhand, open-pit coal mines smother the landscape. The mines have been active without interruption for over a century. Nearby trees are now only dry stumps and groundwater pollution prevents any new cultivation. Constant coal extraction has destroyed the fauna, flora and upset the topography. In this suffocating environment, over 700,000 people live and work. The huge amount of carbon dioxide and toxic fumes in the atmosphere means these people have a life expectancy that barely exceeds 50.

The Messiah, 2013, Kawah Ijen, East Java, Indonesia

In East Java, Indonesia, lies Kawah Ijen volcano. The volcano emits gases through gaps in the earth's surface. Local miners extract the resources in these gases to earn a living. Via the use of stone and ceramic pipes, sulphur from the volcano condenses into a molten red liquid and then solidifies. Miners hack chunks off with steel bars, braving highly toxic gases and liquids with minimal protection. The sulphur is then used for vulcanising rubber, bleaching sugar and other industrial processes. Fumes of hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid and sulphur dioxide attack mucous membranes, lungs, eyes and skin. As a result, the life expectancy of these men is about 50 years.

Invisible, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, 2017

In the Sisdol landfill, near Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, an army of individuals called waste-pickers, rummage through garbage everyday to look for materials or valuables to sell.

You can find out more about Valerie and her work on her website: and on her Instagram: