Over the course of 10 years, photographer Rocco Rorandelli, travelled to India, China, Indonesia, USA, Germany, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Slovenia and Italy to document the impact of the tobacco industry on health, the economy and the environment. In Bitter Leaves
, the resulting photographs are presented alongside texts by scientist Dr Judith MacKay, collectively examining the complexity of this global industry and the influence of corporate mechanisms and power.
Cigarettes are one of the most marketed consumer products in history. Their apparent simplicity and design - tobacco leaves, paper and filter - hides both the chemical toxicity of smoke, and the socio-economic and environmental negative aspects linked to their production, marketing and use. Rorandellis thorough investigation of the industry led him from the tobacco fields to medical centres, vast warehouses, factories, museums and customs facilities, to elucidate the vast web of the industry and the human and environmental burden.
I have witnessed how tobacco promotes the stripping of farmlands, threatens workers with dangerous chemicals, exploits child labor and undocumented workers, utilizes aggressive marketing campaigns aimed at identifying new customers (mostly underage), and conducts heavy lobbying to promote its expansion to novel markets and social strata. --Rocco Rorandelli
Though the tobacco industry has a strong hand of control throughout the tobacco cycle from seed to sale, while negating globally recognized health science and causing ecological destruction among other offencesthe devastation it causes is ultimately borne by governments, tobacco workers, users and their families, creating a seemingly endless cycle of poverty, destruction and death. --Dr Judith MacKay
The afterword, captions and infographics in Bitter Leaves are by senior scientific consultant Dr Judith MacKay
Rocco Rorandelli (Italy, 1973) began working as a documentary photographer after studying Zoology. This background endowed him with a developed and profound interest in global social and environmental issues. His photographs have been used in several awareness campaigns of intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, and published by Le Monde Magazine, GEO, Der Spiegel, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Paris Match, Guardian Review, D di Repubblica, L'Espresso, Internazionale, Io Donna, Vanity Fair, and Monocle amongst others. In 2011 he was awarded a grant by the Fund for Investigative Journalism for his long-term project on the tobacco industry which led to Bitter Leaves, alongside a more recent grant from the World Health Organization which has supported the production of this book. Rorandelli is currently based in Rome and one of the founding members of the collective, TerraProject.