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In May 2016 the high court in Johannesburg decided that a class action lawsuit could be laid against 32 gold mining companies in South Africa. Three law firms represented a group of miners who were applying for this class action certification on behalf of all miners suffering from silicosis and pulmonary tuberculosis as a result of working in the gold mines.
Silicosis is a preventable but incurable lung disease that is contracted in the gold mines through inadequate protection from silica dust. Miners who contract silicosis get tired and out of breath quickly. They are prone to lung infections, respiratory failure and TB.
Over a period of 20 days in September and October 2015, Thom Pierce travelled around South Africa's Eastern Cape, into Lesotho and up to Johannesburg to find and photograph the 56 miners and widows named in the court documents. This project was commissioned by the Treatment Action Campaign and Section 27.
Thom Pierce (born 1978 in Jersey) is a British photographer, currently working out of Cape Town, South Africa. After a successful career in the UK music industry he turned to photography in 2013. Over a short period of time he has enjoyed both solo and group exhibitions in major South African galleries and international festivals.
His work explores the lines between art, documentary and portrait photography to engage with issues of cultural, social and historical significance. He splits his time between personal projects, editorial commissions and working on social justice campaigns.
He is a recipient of the 2016 Piclet prize for contemporary African photography and the 2016 PDN storytellers award. His work has been published widely in newspapers, magazines and books, and has featured heavily as part of several human rights campaigns. A collection of his work can be found in the permanent collection of the South African National Gallery.
In 2017 Pierce was chosen as a finalist in the Magnum Photographic Awards and was selected for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London.