Globalisation is an elusive concept in many ways, difficult to capture in a visual medium. Six prominent photographers set out to do just that, chosing sugar as a starting point for a photo festival on worldwide market forces and what they bring about. The exhibition entitled ‘The Sweet and Sour Story of Sugar’ is going on a world tour this year.
Fotografie Noorderlicht, a Dutch foundation which offers a platform to documentary photographers, commissioned a series on the forces of the global economy. It sent six of them in search of the sugar trail in four different countries – Brazil, Suriname, Indonesia and the Netherlands. One story, seen through different perspectives.
Four centuries ago, the Netherlands was the distribution nub of the international sugar industry. Brazil, Indonesia and Suriname sent its sugar to the Netherlands for further global trading. Things have changed since then: the sugar sector is facing collapse in the Netherlands, while production continues to increase in Brazil. All is quiet on the plantations in Suriname and Indonesia.
Tomasz Tomaszewski (Poland), Alejandro Chaskielberg (Argentina), Ed Kashi (US), Francesco Zizola (Italy), James Whitlow Delana (US/Japan) and Carl de Keyzer (Belgium) photographed sugarcane plantations and sugar beet farms at cultivation and harvest stages, as well as various offshoot developments. Together, these images form the story of sugar, the colourful story behind the packet on the supermarket shelf.
1. Remains of an old sugar factory in Puttershoek, the Netherlands. Photo: Alejandro Chaskielberg.
2. Remains of a sugar factory in Suriname. Photo: Alejandro Chaskielberg.
3. A chocolate handbag and dog in a shopping centre in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo: Carl de Keyzer.
4. Meeting of the European Union’s agricultural commission, Brussels. Photo: Carl de Keyzer.
5. A bus with sugar workers, Brazil. Photo: Ed Kashi.
6. Sugar is turned into sweets at a factory in Sneek, the Netherlands. Photo: Ed Kashi.
7. Surinamese Maroons are descendants of African slaves. Photo: James Whitlow Delano.
8. A young Creole woman in the Amsterdam Bijlmermeer neighbourhood, the centre of Dutch Surinamese-Creole culture. Photo: James Whitlow Delano.
9. Boys playing in the Sugarbuurt (‘Sugar neighbourhood’) in Hoogkerk, the Netherlands. Photo: Tomasz Tomaszewski.
10. Workers repair a broken wheel in a sugar factory in Brebes, Central Java, Indonesia. Photo: Tomasz Tomaszewski.
11. A worker harvests sugar cane with a machete in Vitória de Santo Antão, Brazil. Photo: Francesco Zizola.
12. Sugar beet farmer Frits van Arkel during the harvest in Dronten, the Netherlands. Photo: Francesco Zizola.