Dying to Breathe

Deep in the landlocked rural heartland of China, some 6 million Chinese workers lie ill with “Black Lung” disease or pneumoconiosis, the country’s most prevalent occupational sickness. Workers get ill from exposure to dust, by drilling in mines, cutting hard stone in making pavements or jewellery. The irreversible disease hardens the worker’s lung tissue over time, making it harder and harder to breathe. The only cure is an expensive and rare lung transplant.

Sim Chi Yin documented gold miner He Quangui’s slow death over four years, culminating in an impactful short film and photo essay used in a campaign to help the He family in the impoverished mountains of the northwestern province of Shaanxi and others like them. She shot these portraits of Mr He’s compatriots and fellow miners through the years – putting faces to the unnamed Chinese workers the disease is quietly killing. Every few months, she receives word that a worker she photographed has died.

This project was supported by grants from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.





Listen to: 
 BBC interview on Dying to Breathe


See Project Exhibitions:
  “Dying To Breathe”, installation, Women in Photography exhibition, Objectifs, Singapore.
 “Dying To Breathe”, video installation, at F/stop Photography Festival in Leipzig, June 2016
“Dying To Breathe” screened at Visa Pour L’image Perpignan, France, September 2014
“Dying To Breathe” short film premiered at Singapore International Film Festival, November 2015
“Dying To Breathe” screened at Visa Pour L’image Perpignan, France, September 2014


See Project Publications:
NationalGeographic.com, online, 15 May 2015
Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Switzerland, 14 September 2015
China Photographers, China, Oct 2016