Photographer Lisa Kristine has spent her entire career travelling to the most distant corners of the world, 100 countries in total, to capture vulnerable indigenous communities. Yet, until 2009, she was totally ignorant of the thriving modern slavery trade.
She was showing an exhibition at the Vancouver Peace Summit when an abolitionist with Free The Slaves, a global advocacy group, told her that 27 million people were currently enslaved worldwide.
“I almost fell over,” Kristine told the San Francisco Chronicle last year. “It blew me away …”
Kristine immediately connected with the advocacy group and embarked on a project to document and help expose the trade.
“The biggest shock to me was that something I thought was eliminated in the 1850s is running stronger than ever,” Kristine told Business Insider.
Kristine shared some of the photos with us, but you can check out more at her website or at her new exhibition, Enslaved, which will begin touring this year.
There are currently 27 million people enslaved or in forced labour. That's more than double the number of people trafficked during the entire Transatlantic Slave Trade.
When the abolitionists brought Kristine, she had no more than 10 minutes at a time to photograph. If an overseer or slave owner spotted them, they had to flee quickly or risk endangering themselves or the slaves they were photographing.
These Nepalese children in the Himalayas lug slabs of slate heavier than themselves down the mountain, while their parents break stones in the quarry.
It took many years, but Free The Slaves was able to free the community. After liberating them, the organisation helped the community obtain a quarry licence so they could continue to do the same work, but be paid.
In Ghana, miners work 200 or 300 feet below the surface in illegal gold mine shafts, surrounded by dust and darkness.
The water that the miners must sift through to get to the gold is laced with mercury, leading to severe health problems.
Many people fall into slavery when they incur debt that they cannot pay back. Then the money lender charges them astronomical interest rates and forces them to work.
When they cannot pay off the debt, it is passed on to the slaves' children. In this family portrait, a father and his two sons show their hands, covered in a toxic chemical, at a silk dyeing factory.
In Ghana, Kristine encountered children hauling in 1,000-pound fishing nets after all-night exhibitions.
Often, families with too many children to feed will give up their child to a person promising to take them to an adopting family that will send them to a good school. The children are then sold to human traffickers, like this child from Ghana. After Kristine took this picture, this child was reunited with his family.
While the problem can often seem insurmountable, Kristine says that the communities do become liberated when advocacy groups put attention and pressure on the slave holders.
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