The Forgotten

by João Coelho


A poignant exploration of a community living in the shadows of society, tucked away in a dump on the outskirts of a city in southern Angola


Curated by Santanu Dey

“The Forgotten” is a poignant exploration of a community living in the shadows of society, tucked away in a dump on the outskirts of a city in southern Angola. Through his lens, Coelho delves into the raw realities of men, women, and children who eke out an existence on the fringes of survival, drawing sustenance from the remnants of what others have discarded. From scavenging food to salvaging scraps for joyous playthings, their lives are a testament to resilience amidst adversity.

This project sheds light on a community seemingly forgotten by the world, their daily struggles obscured by the towering piles of garbage and the suffocating haze of toxic smoke that blankets their landscape. Coelho’s images capture the desolation and harshness of their surroundings, where the horizon is marked not by natural beauty but by heaps of refuse.

The ritual of setting fire to these mounds at dusk unveils a grim necessity — the search for valuable metals like iron and copper buried within the ashes. It’s a painstaking process that underscores the resourcefulness and determination of these forgotten souls, as they toil for meager earnings in the recycling industry.

Initially presented in color, Coelho’s journey with this project led him to a transformative decision: to convey the depth of emotion and drama inherent in this reality, he transitioned to black-and-white editing. This artistic choice amplifies the starkness of their lives, emphasizing the stark contrast between hope and despair.

Beyond photography, “The Forgotten” is a call to action. Coelho’s vision extends beyond capturing moments; it seeks to inspire change. His ultimate goal is to rally support for this marginalized community, advocating for essentials like access to clean water through the construction of a borehole, consistent medical care, and the establishment of a field school for their children. Through his lens, Coelho not only documents a forgotten community but also ignites a conversation about our collective responsibility to uplift those who dwell in the shadows of neglect.

João Coelho

João Coelho

Born in Angola, João Coelho and his family relocated to Portugal in the mid-70s due to the war of independence. He graduated in Law and pursued a career in law and banking, but his true passion for photography emerged during adolescence. In 2007, he returned to Angola, where he now focuses on auditing and consulting projects in the social public sector.

Despite challenges and a period of dormancy, João reignited his passion for photography about four years ago. Through capturing stories in Angola, he finds personal fulfillment and inspiration, shaping his perspective on life and the power of small gestures to effect change.

The article has been edited by our Founder & Editor-In-Chief Apratim Saha.

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