When I first met 6 year-old Konglan La, in the Russian Hospital in Laos, he was still under anesthesia having just had surgery to remove his left eye and repair a punctured lung. Two days earlier he and a friend had been playing near their home when they discoverd a cluster bomblet lying on the ground. Konglan picked it up and threw it. The explosion sent ball bearings tearing through everything within 100 meters.
During the Vietnam war two million tons of explosives were dumped on Laos, of which one third failed to detonate, and it is this unexploded ordnance which continues to maim and kill today.
I returned to the Hospital the next day but Konglan was still very weak and in a lot of discomfort. When I returned for the third time he was sitting up and I was able to photograph him. I wanted the image to be as powerful and direct as possible to really get across the futility of the situation in Laos. To cheer him up I brought him some markers and a colouring book, but of course he ignored the book and proceeded to draw all over the walls. He was obviously feeling a lot better although the nurses weren’t impressed.
Andrew McConnell began his career as a press photographer in Northern Ireland in 2000. He now shoots documentary and travel for various editorial clients and agencies.
Photographer since 2000, EPUK member since 2006
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