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Daniel Rodrigues’s “The Iron Train”

Posted by on July 13, 2016 | Photographer Interviews

The Iron Train, which starts its journey in Nouadhibou and ends in Zouérat, travels more than 405 miles through the Sahara Desert over the course of 20 hours. The extreme shifts in temperature from day to night make for uneasy travel conditions, but “the worst,” photographer Daniel Rodrigues says, “is the dust produced by wagons full of iron minerals.” The minerals come from a Zouérat mine and are unloaded in cargo boats in the port of Nouadhibou, he explains.

Rodrigues, a graduate of the Portuguese Institute of Photography, first became interested in the massive 1.5-mile-long train after encountering it in Mauritania while following a humanitarian mission that was en route from Portugal to Guinea-Bissau. Captivated by its story, Rodrigues returned to the area this year to photograph the Iron Train and the people who use it as a mode of transportation. Many of its riders are poor, and use this dangerous mode of transportation to visit relatives or to transport goods, such as live animals.

Inspired by the likes of Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin and Sebastião Salgado, Rodrigues produces both thoughtful, well-researched documentary work—which has been recognized by World Press Photo, Best of Photojournalism and Pictures of the Year International—and more spontaneous travel and street photography. This body of work will be part of a larger ongoing project about the many different trains that exist in the world and how they are used. Rodrigues says: “It’s one thing I want to [photograph] throughout life.”

–Amy Touchette

All photos © Daniel Rodrigues

Nouadhibouh, Mauritania – 20 January, 2016: The train is often used for the transport of animals such as goats.


Choum, Mauritania – 23 January, 2016: Being a long journey, about 16/18 hours of Nouadhibou to Zouarete, people end up resting inside the wagons. In this case, upon foam.


Zouarete, Mauritania – 21 January, 2016: Removing the goats of the wagons at the end destination.


Zouarete, Mauritania – 24 January, 2016: Passengers prepare the wagon full of iron mineral for a long journey of 20 hours to Nouadhibou.


Zouarete, Mauritania – 24 January, 2016: Both the feet and both hands are black and full of iron during the trip.


Zouarete, Mauritania – 24 January, 2016: Passengers in the train full of iron, after leaving the mining town Zouarete in the middle of the Sahara desert.


Zouarete, Mauritania – 24 January, 2016: Donkeys on the wagons full of iron mineral with final destination the city of Nouadhibou.

Read more interviews from our sister magazine, Emerging Photographer, at issuu.com.