• LE BOUR Sidney Léa

Sulfur miners & Instagramers

A miner coming out of a cloud of yellow smoke: On his shoulders, two wicker baskets with 80 kilos of sulphur. He slowly walks back carrying between 150 and 300 kilos of sulphur a day and sells the fruit of his labour 6 cents the kilo, more than 200 steps to climb up the steep slope of the crater 5 to 6 times a week.
Miners know every stone and have travelled along this path thousands of times. The company that buys sulphur is a private company based in Surabaya. Once processed, sulphur is sold again to make cosmetics, matches, fertilizers, insecticides and also to refine sugar.

The mine of Kawah Ijen is known for its Dantean working conditions and its amazing beauty. A turquoise blue acid lake is on the border of the yellow gold mining site. The crater steep and chiselled slopes stand like fortifications around this exceptional place. Everything would be idyllic if a toxic gas were not part of the equation. Sulphur clouds in which miners work are extremely dangerous for health. Even with a mask, particles seep into the sinuses, throat and lungs.

At night, a rare phenomenon greatly contributes to the notoriety of the Ijen volcano. Methane getting out of the ground burns in contact with oxygen and creates blue flames. More than 100,000 people a year climb its crater to observe this nature curiosity. At 1 am, strange fireflies equipped with headlights and torches confront the night dense darkness. To reach the summit, they climb 3,6 kilometres while groping and slaloming in the darkness. Along the way, the miners having fully understood the interest of this new vein shout at the top of their voices "Taxi taxi! ". They propose to convoy not athletic or lazy tourists to the summit in exchange for a nice sum. Equipped with trolleys, which they normally use to bring sulphur down to the foot of the volcano, they comfortably install their customers and pull them to the top.

This juicy business does not stop there. Most groups are accompanied by a guide, usually a former minor. On the ridge, gas masks renters try to flog their crap for a few euros to unsuspecting tourists. Filters are not changed regularly, so they are therefore inefficient. Other miners make extra by selling souvenirs. They make them by pouring liquid sulphur into moulds. In a few seconds, the liquid solidifies and gains value. A turtle of a few grams will be sold between 5000 and 50 000 rupees depending on the buyer’s generosity - the equivalent of 5 to 50 kilos of sulphur carried to the top of the crater.

Miners have also learned how to trade their image. They willingly accept to pose or make selfies with tourists. But, they do not forget to remind them of the rule: "Photo photo. Money money." And, it’s understandable when you see them assaulted by a horde of Chinese tourists who do not let them take a step without sticking a camera under their noses. The contrast between those sulphur miners and those Instagram and other social media addicts is striking.

LE BOUR Sidney Léa

Born in 1990 in Paris. Live in Nantes.

After graduating in Architecture, she then attended classes at the photography school Louis Lumière until 2014. Ever since, irrepressibly attracted to the East, she travelled to the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia and Russia many times

Hitchhiking across the Eurasian continent.
Winter photo-reportage in Siberia. She likes to challenge herself to photograph people from all over the world. Within a few years, her photographs have allowed her to work with many magazines and press agencies.

Surprise is the engine of her photographic creation and a key element in the choice of her projects. The unusual attracts her and she takes pictures by intending to show what astonishes and fascinates her.

Chiselled, soft and wrinkled human bodies. Limestone meanders. Rough ice. Each series of images that she produces pushes further her material and colour exploration. Intriguing traditions that trigger curiosity are another of her favourite subjects.

Her work has been shown during several personal and collective exhibitions. She is currently represented by the agency Hans Lucas and the gallery Hegoa.

All her projects can be seen on her website: www.sidneylealebour.com