Images of Modern-Day Slavery by Lisa Kristine

Lisa Kristine, after realizing slavery exists in many places around the world today -- 27 million people are estimated to be in slavery -- spent time traveling, taking photographs of such examples to raise awareness about the still very real issues around modern-day slavery.


A woman in Nepal showed Kristine where she used to work -- a forced prostitution house where women, encouraged later to offer food and alcohol, would wait for their clients in 'cubbies' separated by numbered plywood dividers.

Men who came to Accra, Ghana from the north hoping to find work resort to working off debts in illegal gold mines, many previously abandoned.

Children pan for gold in water poisoned by mercury from the extraction process.

Two children in the Himalayas carry large sheets of slate that often weigh more than themselves, even.

Child slaves on Lake Volta work on fishing boats, despite not knowing how to swim.

Lake Volta, in Ghana, is the largest man-made lake in the world. Up to 10,000 children are estimated to be working in slavery along its banks, fishing for the profit of the village people that enslave them.


It seems strange -- unreal, really -- that in 2012, we're still dealing with slavery across the world. And in many cases, those enslaved are done so by their very own people. In some places, there seems to be no regard for human life or freedom.

For more images of Lisa Kristine's visit The Atlantic or her website.

I had my own experiences on Lake Volta myself in the summer of 2011. Often, it's the child's job to dive into the water and free fishing nets that become trapped on tree stubs and twigs in the shallow by large lake. They are expected to do this despite not knowing how to swim. And from time to time, children just never come back up.

Below are some images I captured while traveling with the Challenging Heights organization, started by a man who was a slave himself on Lake Volta and now dedicates his life to children in similar situations.

Family members will abandon or even sell their children into slavery for as little as $15 for the extra money and to be able to save the money it costs to house their children (often, if a child lives with his uncle, the uncle might sell him into slavery help support his own children in the house). It's Challenging Heights' goal to help children find their families (and stay with them) again, or to give them shelter as they go to school and grow old enough to care for themselves.


A tree sticks out of Lake Volta -- a sign of many more that stand just beneath the surface of the lake, snagging fishing nets to be freed by enslaved children.

One of the men who helps 'run' the slaves sits on his boat, taking a break as the children eat rice elsewhere.

A child sits with fishing nets and other gear, waiting for his 'bosses' to come back before they set out for the day.

A fishing boat of villagers and children passes as one stands and waves across the lake.

Two boys look at us, the younger boy behind the older boy, pleading to come with us as our boat heads back to find families of the children back in their home villages.

An extremely small and young boy, without clothes, helps pull in a fishing line.
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jose pablo chavez's picture

tough reality.

John Godwin's picture

Powerful work. Not sure I'd have what it takes to shoot in that environment. 

RUSS's picture

What's strange is, a lot of people don't realize, other cultures ARE DIFFERENT THAN OURS,
What we see as horrible, they see as every day life and know nothing different.
Is their way wrong?
Is our way wrong?
Is it our business?

Chris Popely's picture

Because they have a different culture and different beliefs, it's okay to enslave children and make them work what should be adult jobs?

You know what, you've convinced me, great argument. -.-

RUSS's picture

 Because they have a different culture and belief system, it is not my place to judge them based on my own beliefs.

Danylo Bobyk's picture

...i agree with the fact that other cultural have other beliefs but some of these situations have peoples that knowingly benefits from slavery. 

Definitely check out Lisa Kristine's TED Talk with more info on the subjects & places. for the question, "Is it our business?" ....YES IT IS....WHY? ...because in most cases the  people enslaved have no hope to ever get out of the vicious cycle with the penalty of violence or death.... so in my book...if we can make a difference, we MUST instead of going about our mundane lives as if nothing else existed on this earth which is sad.

RUSS's picture

 Danylö Böbyk WELL SAID. :-)

John Godwin's picture

You are a fucking imbecile. 

RUSS's picture

Me making a statement and asking questions.
And that's the best you could reply with, Johnny boy?
Come on give your opinion , not school grade name calling.
Anyone can call someone names. We know, because, you just showed us that example.
Re-read the post and give your input. That's what's needed most johnny.

John Godwin's picture

I'm not calling you a name, I'm accurately describing you based on your post.

If you really think, for even a second, that slavery is acceptable purely because another culture condones it, then you automatically have to make the same allowances for Nazi's, racists, bigots and homophobes. Because, shit, gassing Jews and burning black people might not be my thing, but hey, they did it in Germany and the deep south, so who are we to judge?! Do you see how disgusting that sounds? That's how you sound. Really, calling you a fucking imbecile is the best thing to do, because either you're too stupid to realise the gravity and depth of your statement, or you're inherently evil and sociopathic.

The way you placed your cringe-worthy attempts at thought-provoking statements in UPPERCASE, as if the moral case for human slavery was somehow open to debate, rather than open rejection and opposition just completely sickened me. As if, once reading it, we were suposed to think :Oh hey, RUSS might be right, perhaps we SHOULD stop moaning about human slavery, because that's just how they do things in that barbaric and miserable culture!" If you can advance that position and not realise how heinous it is, then there's something fundamentally wrong with you. I mean to the point where you'd actually have to be devoid of the critical faculties for compassion.

So yeah, you're an imbecile, and I'm kind of disgusted with myself for even entertaining you.

Chris Popely's picture

An excellent point, flawlessly made. Well done.

RUSS's picture

 Well maybe you misread it...Hmm,
 Maybe you didn't understand what I meant when i wrote "What WE see as horrible" ( slavery, Nazi's, racists, bigots and homophobes.But also would include rapists, child molesters and all other things, acts, and people we find horrible in our culture. and by "WE" I mean ME and others who were brought up as we were.)

Is their way wrong?
 To us, ya of course it is. We were brought up differently

Is our way wrong?
  no. Our way is the way it should be. Freedom is a good thing..

Is it our business?
 Tough call, seeings most of us live in countries that should fix their own problems before trying to fix other country's problems. But ya I'd say it should be something we make our business.

One thing I want to ask you John is, What will you do to fix the slavery problem?

John Godwin's picture

Please, spare me. That is absolutely NOT what you said in your opening post. Your original intent was to get people to spare a thought for the poor slave-masters who know no better. That we must give a pass to people who enforce misery, cruelty and death-for a pittance-because of some flimsy "belief". You even rammed the point home using uppercase

You challenged a morally superior audience to consider the possibility that it might be they who are in the wrong, and not the backwards, prehistoric culture that supports such a despicable, filthy practice. 

What will I do to "fix the slavery problem"?

I'll start by not positing badly thought-out cultural arguments, surreptitiously condoning the enslavement of children on no more the basis than, "It's what they do, innit?".

I'll start there. 

RUSS's picture

 lol no no John, that is what i meant. You reading into it, is what you did sir. Capital letters giving you a meaning is neat and all. But, you stay up there on your horse bud. :-) And I am sure people around the world will be much happier you won't be posting things on the internet that is badly thought out cultural arguments..

:-) keep smilin

Sean Shimmel's picture

Deserves more comments. 

Ps. apart from written content... that haunting first image!

Joshua-James Cunliffe's picture

You guys don't champion photojournalism enough. It's where everything started! 

Luis Colon's picture

So much info about third worlds slavery country. we must do!!!-- our part to stop slavery around world.Lisa Kristine's what an amazing work _powerful, real and-- [Socking Awareness] --to the world trougth out your images, thank you for sharing.

Luis Colon's picture

to Russ answers: Yes! indeed -is our responsibility to face the reality of the world. Slavery and poverty is an issue we must face it -and deal with it. We're humans, we've feeling and emotions,hard to ignore.

RUSS's picture

 :-) I agree Luis.