Fair to say that the images conjured up in most minds when the word slavery arises are those associated with the Trans-Atlantic Slavery Trade. Those of African natives unwillingly taken and transferred to the Americas and West Indies to work, giving birth to centuries of generations who were born bereft of freedom. What we know of this slavery comes from historical accounts, sketches, and the odd photo. It’s difficult to feel that. In the modern day of imaging, the case is quite different. Lisa Kristine is a photographer who is using her trade to show what slavery is like like now.
Though the history books will teach that slavery was abolished in the 19th century, the truth is far more insidious than that. It not only exists, but is flourishing, and according to the International Labor Orginazation over 20 million men, women, and children are in slavery, despite the fact that it is illegal in all countries it takes place. To photograph and document this modern incarnation of slavery, which is different, but by no means a metaphor, is risky and can be dangerous.
In her TEDxMaui address, Kristine, who has spent years traveling the globe documenting modern slavery, shares some of her portraits. They are, beautiful and disturbing. Incredibly, she doesn’t just show you images taken with a Canon 100-400mm from a secure perch as she sips a bottle of Voss, she takes them from a breath away, and personalizes it with their names and stories. From miners in the Congo, dyers in India, sex slaves in Nepal, she covers them all.
Lisa Kristine’s sensitive and beautiful portrayal of isolated and distant peoples helps us to better appreciate the diversity of the world. She captures the sheer beauty of the differences in people and places and allows us to comprehend the shared nature of the human condition: its hope, its joy and its complexity.
John C. Sweeney, Director of the United Nations
I’m by no means of the persuasion that all art must have some deep purpose and bring with it a sense of public service. I like looking at shallow depth of field photos of women with personalities to match, and humorous animals. But I also like the idea that photography can really move minds, and hasn’t resided itself to be solely a profit or pleasure based vocation. None of us really travel as much as would be necessary to get a real global scape, and photography helps to shrink this planet by bringing the far away, near.
Lisa Kristine has published three noteworthy books, A Human Thread, capturing an “intimate and honest portrait of humanity,” This Moment, which took home the bronze medal at the Independent Publisher Book Awards, and Slavery. She also produced two films in which she exposed her techniques. You can find more from Lisa Kristine on her site, and of course TED is a pirates bounty of phenomenal information for anyone.