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. Rorandelli’s thorough investigation of the industry led him from the tobacco fields to medical centres, auction floors, 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