Left-Behind

A series by photographer Hibshy Samsadin

“After being unsettled by the prospects of a financial career in the United Kingdom, I packed my bags, camera, and Hawaiian shirts and flew to China. Over the following year, I’ve had the honour to collaborate alongside an array of NGOs, Journalists, and communities to help children with congenital heart disease, migrant education, and animal rights abuse. In my short time as a photographer documenting the social issues in China, I’ve grown to realise the importance of using photographs to create social change, and it’s a cause I intend to continue advocating.”

Hibshy Samsadin is not a stranger to the topic of migration. “My earliest memories of migration entail my uncle driving to the Colombo Airport in a 1980s Volkswagen through the thick, humid and abundant jungles in Sri Lanka with my mother and fellow siblings. My mother’s eyes were holding back tears at the prospect of leaving her family, and the brothers were laughing, as usual, not knowing our life would soon change.”

“Our ancestors came to the island as tradesmen seeking fortune from the middle east, only to settle down once falling in love with the vast flavours of spice, rhythms of the jungles, and the stillness of the night skies. Yet, here we were, the first of our generation in centuries to depart this small island. Staring past the continuous street lights passing through the motorway to London, I realised in my younger years that I was on a different island.”

“An immigrant’s story is often one of two tales, the first being the clenching of vast opportunity in a diverse, progressive and abundant society to carve a hopeful future, while the other is the melancholy thought of a simple life in a distant place that might’ve been home.”

Once he moved to China, Hibshy Samsadin learned about the situation of migrant children. “To hear that 60 million children in China were living without a mother or father while their parents search for work in factories in distance cities was something hard to bear, as I lived on the 24th apartment in East Nanjing and watched the tallest towers in the world pierce through the skies of Shanghai every night. ‍I had no choice but to use my camera to provide a voice to those without one.” Hibshy photographed migrant schools in Shanghai, Zhejiang, and, in collaboration with Shanghai-based NGO Stepping Stones, Henan Province.

“There is a photograph of a young girl dressed in red, holding a book in this series. It was a book about a girl who had no family, friends or a hopeful future but through persevering through each hardship, she eventually became a “pretty woman.” The lottery of birth can be cruel, but I hope these photographs can highlight the struggles of these children and lead for those privileged enough to act.”