Lisa Kristine’s Photographs “Shine a Light on Slavery”



On Tuesday, March 1, Humanitarian Photographer Lisa Kristine spoke in Walter Theater at 7 p.m. and presented her photographs displaying “The Faces of Modern-Day Slavery.” This event was arranged by the Norman Miller Center for Peace, Justice & Public Understanding.

Kristine’s array of photographs, featuring more than 100 countries over six continents, serve as a huge and harrowing reminder that slavery was, and still remains, an ongoing crisis.

“I think if there’s something that I really recognize about slavery and why awareness is so direly important, it is because it’s hidden in plain sight. It could be right in front of you and you wouldn’t know it because the assumption is that it doesn’t exist,” said Kristine. 

Kristine began by showing photographs taken in Nepal and India, where many individuals, not just men but also women, were working at brick kilns.

“I felt like I had stepped back in time thousands of years. […] Here were these people, working in kilns, stacking bricks on their heads one at a time, endlessly, mechanically, enduringly, 16, 18, 20 hours a day,” Kristine recalled.

These people are forced to work in scorching temperatures and are constantly surrounded by dust from the bricks.

“They frequently become ill because they are breathing in this dust, and when they become ill they have no rights, they are unable to get any help, and if they die, […] it doesn’t even matter to the slaveholders because they are so easily replaceable,” said Kristine.

Kristine explained that many impoverished children are lured away from their families by “money lenders,” with whom the families usually have some kind of relationship. The families are told that their children can work for them, gain an education and have a better future.

“But the minute those children are taken from the village they vanish […] and they are sold into fishing villages,” said Kristine.

The older enslaved children handle the young ones and are forced to work under truly horrendous conditions.

“[They] are forced to be in the water constantly, all day, and they frequently endure skin conditions.” Kristine went on to say, “One thing to really recognize about this type of slavery is [that] none of them are taught how to swim. […] I didn’t meet one child who didn’t know another kid that did not drown.”

Kristine also shared photographs taken in Kathmandu, Nepal, which is home to underground “Cabin Restaurants,” where forced prostitution takes place. Both girls and boys, young and old, are forced to work there.

“They’re encouraged to get the clients to order more alcohol and more food, and they are left to the devices of those clients, […] and they endure horrible tragedies from their customers,” said Kristine.

It is vital to remember that slavery is not simply subjected to countries like Nepal or Ghana.

“Slavery is virtually illegal in every country in this world, and yet it exists in pretty much every country in this world,” Kristine acknowledged.

Although we unknowingly contribute to slavery, Kristine highlighted ways that we can all help raise awareness of it.

“There’s social media; there’s writing a letter to one’s Senator, Congressman or Mayor; […] there’s talking to police officers about the fact that most prostitution is not prostitution—it’s women, girls and boys that have been trafficked and put in controllable situations,” emphasized Kristine.

The Baer Gallery in the Bush Art Center is currently housing Kristine’s exhibition, titled “Enslaved: A Visual Story of Modern-Day Slavery,” which shows some of her photographs. This exhibition will remain at St. Norbert College through Friday, April 1.


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