The State of Jharkhand, in the northeast of India, became a hell on Earth. The open-cast coal mines there took over the forest. The extraction of the "black diamond", destroyed the fauna, the flora, and upset the topography. For more than eighty years, a huge underground fire is burning exhaling enormous quantities of carbon dioxide into the air. All efforts to put out this fire have been in vain. In the suffocating hostility of this environment people work despite the many diseases due to the toxic atmosphere. The lucky ones, for a dollar a day, carry the coal in wicker baskets and load the trucks. But the majority of them, before dawn, illegally collect coal to sell it at the black market. With about 300 million Indians living without electricity, and faced with a desperate shortage of power, the Indian government plans to double its state-run coal production by 2020.
Born to American and French parents, Valerie Leonard has always been surrounded by a world of images. Her mother was a painter, and her father, photographer, Herman Leonard. When she presses the shutter, she remembers the doctrine of her father: "Always tell the Truth, but in terms of Beauty". Valerie Leonard strives for her work to embody to this search for truth and beauty of human beings, whatever their origin or wealth. Far from seeking aesthetic or false compassion, she wants to show the dignity of these women and men, in particularly hostile environments. Throughout her trips around the world she focused her work particularly on a theme that she named “Labours of Hercules”. A series of photographs where she attempts to show with utmost respect and admiration the nobility and courage of those living in difficult conditions. AWARDS: 2014: - Silver Star Award. ND Awards. - Shortlisted SONY WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS. - Honorable Mention IPA Category "People, children". 2013: - Finalist TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR. - Nominee NATURE IMAGES AWARDS. - Honorable Mention IPA Category one Shot, one world. - Honorable Mention "BEST OF PHOTOGRAPHY". - Honorable Mention WINNER OF PX PARIS. 2012: - Honorable Mention IPA category "Wildlife" . - Honorable Mention IPA category "People ". - Bronze Medal "ART EN CAPITAL" Grand Palais Paris. - Photographer of the Month NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC France Website. 2011: - 1ST PRIZE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNEL'S CONTEST FRANCE.