June - August, 2012
Photography was a form of expression and healing for these four women who were recently rescued from lives of sex-trafficking and abuse in India’s brothels. None of the these girls went willingly, but were tricked, trapped, and sold. Because of their bravery and faith, they were rescued out and eventually made their way to Ooty, India with Freedom Firm, a rescue and rehabilitation organization for women and minors in India.
The women were between 20-30 years old, had minimal knowledge of reading and writing, and had never held a camera before, yet the 3 months that Picture Change was involved saw them growing in their freedom of expression, creativity, and confidence. We explored the town of Ooty, from the streets, markets, back alleyways, and even some homes, documenting life in this mountainous town. The women were also involved in horse therapy with Leg Up India and were able to photograph the horses that have helped them heal in so many ways.
The girls used their photography skills to give back to others when we gave portraits to residents of the Ashia Home for the Mentally and Physically Handicapped. They cleaned faces, fixed the hair of the residents and helped to pose and smile as we all took turns on the camera. The portraits were printed and the girls delivered them to the smiling residents of the home.
We held a Picture Change gallery show in Café Coffee Day in downtown Ooty, with each student displaying 15 of their favorite photographs from class. Nearly 200 community members came out and enjoyed the photography, coffee, and cakes. The girls were presented with roses and, though they were a bit shy with all the attention, were thoroughly celebrated for the wonderful women and talented photographers they have become.
Nearly all of their work was sold in an auction and the money went back to Freedom Firm and the rescue and rehabilitation of more women out of sex trafficking.