Within its child anti-trafficking programming in South Asia, Terre des hommes Foundation (Lausanne, Switzerland) encouraged and supported Sanlaap and the Indian photographer Achinto Bhadra to create a series of photographs of girls and young women, from 8 to 25 years old, who are survivors of trafficking, rape or abandonment, or are the children of sex workers. They have been in the care of Sanlaap from their childhood onwards, a non-governmental organization based in Kolkata, India. The photography sessions were conducted at Sanlaap’s Sneha Girls Shelter in Kolkata over a period of more than three months.
The documentary photographer Achinto Bhadra and counsellor Harleen Walia guided 126 girls and young women through a healing journey of psychological transformation. Achinto’s portraits record trafficking survivors’ imaginative visions of themselves as human, animistic and divine beings of power, love, revenge and freedom.
Through the months of the project, the girls and young women were assisted by the counselor to narrate their personal histories, the stories that they wanted to tell the world – powerful stories of disappointed childhood, abuse, betrayal, abduction and finally, slavery in the brothels. Following these individual counseling sessions, the girls and young women were guided by the counselor and the photographer to identify an imaginary being into which they most wanted to transform, an empowered physical expression of their sorrow, anger and hope. All the girls and young women involved in the project provided their written consent, and were offered counselling and support.
Exhibit ends March 1, 2010.