Mominul Islam and his wife Sharvanu, who was seriously injured in the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory.
Ismail Ferdous
By Olivier Laurent
June 12, 2015

When the Rana Plaza garment factory complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed on April 24, 2013, more than 1,100 people were killed. Images of the devastation captured the world’s attention and drew focus to conditions within that industry. But, four months later, when Bangladeshi photographer Ismail Ferdous visited New York City for a photojournalism workshop, it seemed like those hundreds of victims had been forgotten.

“Though I really love the city,” he tells TIME, “I [was traumatized] when I saw all the large, fancy store windows lined with sales and discount signs. I couldn’t help but think about the labels I saw in the rubble, the faces of the family members who had lost loved ones and the inhumane working conditions of the garment workers in Bangladesh.”

Audio Subtitles: “I never thought my son would die like this. I never thought he would be crumbled to death; that I would have to retrieve his body from a nine-story building which crushed him. I never thought this could happen. I never could have believed my son would die so young,” shares Rahela Begum – the mother of her 13-year old son who died during the collapse. Story: “My son had lots of dreams for himself and us. He promised he will improve our condition in the future. But my son went somewhere from where he will never come back. My son was very fond of me. During the winter he would give us the blanket and lie around in the cold. But he never complained. He would always say that he does not need anything except caring about us. On the night before 24th April, he came back from work and fed me dinner himself. I was really sick then. He made my bed and put me to sleep. He told us about the cracks inside Rana Plaza and there was a possibility of the building collapsing. But I did not pay any attention to this. If I knew that this collapse will happen then I would have never let him go to work that day; no matter how much money someone offers me. The next morning, when I heard the Rana Plaza building had collapsed, I ran towards it from our house. When I saw the building had completely collapsed, I could not figure out what to do. I requested a guy in front of me to give me his phone so that I could call my eldest son. For the next three days we searched for him in every possible place but we could not find him. We went to all the clinics around Savar so many times but there were no traces of him. On 27th April morning we went to Enam Medical Hospital because we heard victims from the 4th and 5th floors of Rana Plaza had been rescued that day. But he was not there. (Read on the website) Photo: @ismailferdous #afterranaplaza

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After his visit, Ferdous felt he had to do something. “I didn’t want the world to forget about Rana Plaza,” he says. With the help of filmmaker Nathan Fitch, he launched The Cost of Fashion, an advocacy project that premiered in February of 2014 during New York Fashion Week. “My images of the Rana Plaza collapse were projected onto the buildings of the Lincoln Center and on stores such as The Children’s Place, one of the many companies that still owe compensation to the victims of Rana Plaza.”

Now, Ferdous has taken to Instagram to launch a new series called After Rana Plaza. “This project came from a very personal place,” he says. “As I am based in Bangladesh, I live among the people who are affected by the garment industry. Every day on the street in front of my home, I see hundreds of garment workers going to work in the morning. [They are] a constant reminder of the collapse.”

Audio Subtitles: “I said, if you go, I will go too. He said, “you will stay at home today. If everything is fine today, you will go tomorrow; there is no need to go to work today,” said my husband, as he left for work. After a short while, we heard Rana Plaza has collapsed,” recalled Mosammat Moyna Akhter, the wife of Mohammad Dulal. Story: Mohammad Dulal unknowingly saved two lives on the day of the collapse. His wife, Mosammat Moyna Akhter, also worked in a factory in Rana Plaza, but he forbade her from going to work that day as she was seven-months pregnant. “The day of the collapse, we were supposed to get our salary, but my husband told me not to go, as he would be going there. But I tried convincing him that we would get our payment, so I must, but he insisted that I stay at home due to my condition. My father in law and mother in law also insisted that I do not go to work that day. So finally, I did not go. I told my husband, “Since I won’t be going, you should not go either,” but he told me, “you are sick so you do not need to go but I need to go today,”; when my husband left for work, I went to my in-law’s house, and after a while, my husband called to tell me that Rana Plaza had collapsed,” recalled Mosammat Moyna Akhter. Due to his love, care, affection, and some may say premonition, Dulal saved the lives of both his wife and their unborn daughter. Photo by @ismailferdous (Read more on the website)

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Each day, Ferdous interviews a survivor or a family member of one of the 1,110 people who died in the 2013 collapse. Each photo is accompanied by a short audio testimony in Bengali, which is then translated in English and attached to the picture’s caption. “I also post photos from my Rana Plaza archive with statistics and facts as a way to add more context to this issue,” he says.

Ferdous chose Instagram because he wanted these stories to become an integral part of people’s everyday lives. “I believe Instagram is a useful educational tool and information source and can also engage people of varying ages, nationalities, ethnicities and socioeconomic class,” he says. “It brings issues into peoples’ back pockets.”

The project, funded in part by the Netherlands Embassy in Bangladesh, will last a year, until the next anniversary of the collapse. “Through these stories, people will realize how their lives have changed, what challenges they continue to face and what [can be done] to help in the recovery process,” Ferdous says.

Ismail Ferdous is a freelance photographer based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Follow him on Instagram @ismailferdous.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

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