CNN Freedom Project: Turning the lens on a hidden modern-day problem

Mar 30, 2011 by

CNN Freedom Project: Turning the lens on a hidden modern-day problem

Kay Chernush photo of sexual slavery

For photographer Kay Chernush, a passion for shedding light on human trafficking began with a plane ride across the Atlantic Ocean.

“I was going overseas, and sat next to somebody who, it turned out, worked at the TIP (Trafficking in Persons) office at the State Department. We talked all the way Kay Chernush photo of child as slave labor in brick factory in Indiaacross the Atlantic, and I was very interested in learning more about the subject.”

Chernush would later be invited to trek across Asia and eastern Europe in 2004 to document cases of human trafficking, using her talents as a photographer. Her imagery would become an integral part of the 2005 “Trafficking in Persons” report – a report mandated by Kay Chernush photo of child slave labor in textile factoryCongress to be compiled by the State Department each year.

A self-described well-traveled person, Chernush was shocked that she had not noticed the obvious signs of modern-day slavery.

Kay Chernush photo of indentured family“I’d traveled for many years, I’d lived overseas – how had this escaped me? It just grabbed me emotionally, the fact that people’s lives are so precarious.”

What began as one assignment has turned into a humanitarian passion. Chernush continues to work with a number of different groups attempting to highlight modern-day slavery. She continues to exhibit her work shedding light on human trafficking with various non-government organizations around the world.

“I’m enamored by that idea – so egalitarian, reaching people who are not necessarily aware of the problem. It’s not the anti-trafficking crowd, not the gallery-going crowd, it’s everyday people.”



  1. Thank you, once again, dear Rose, for the kindness, you offer me with your gracious words. However, know I, in turn greatly appreciate the new knowledge your discussions offer me. The specific issues and situations you provided data about are relevant for all of us to understand with a greater level of awareness. Because your opportunities for learning information are unique, from my own, you bring me new facts to review and I, very much, value what you offer me.

    You have mentioned a very empowering point, there are things within your control that you can do as a buying consumer do make a huge difference in altering the balance of power in the slave trade.

    Make different buying choices.
    Buy slave-free products.

    Yes!! You can choose to buy from manufacturers who do not use slave labor. You can learn who are the appropriate manufacturers by becoming more aware about how your products are produced. For instance, in November 2010 a new iPhone app was introduced to help consumers reduce their “slavery footprint” by delivering product ratings on the things you buy. That way you can use it while you are out shopping or shopping online.

    It’s called the Free2Work app.

    It is intended to help consumers deal with the hidden web of human slavery and trafficking, mainly because what happens in the supply-chains, outsourcing and subcontracting, and the plethora of monitoring, certification, and labeling programs makes it difficult for the average person to find a simple answer to the question: “Is my product slave-free?”
    The complexities and reasons behind the global slave trade are vast.

    Nevertheless, knowledge is POWER, and, I feel it is important to recognize here that your heightened awareness represents your growing knowledge and that growing knowledge is greater and greater power. This power and its momentum take on an exponential growth path in the movement toward change. Let me explain, you see if you continue doing what you are doing right here: staying open, staying aware, educating yourself about what you see, talking about what you know so that others, who are not as well-informed as you gain the benefit of the wisdom you have acquired, the ideas you bring, the insights you provide. Then, they too, will talk to people. They too, will share more information, spread more light, share more ideas and, so in doing, we will change this. We will change this, Rose. We will.

  2. Gotcha, sweetpea!!! oxoxoxo!

  3. I will not begin reading until the weekend so take your time and thanks again, Brooke!!!

  4. You got, Adeley!!! I’ll send you some tomorrow!! : )

  5. Well it’s about time then! I fully intend to be a part of this in a more direct way! Send me a link or two of resources, Brooke…if you will…and I will at least begin my reading/listening/watching on the subject! I will begin with whatever you send<3

  6. You are absolutely correct!!! It as if a global klieg light has been turned on, shining brightly in an attempt to bring in the attendance of the entire world audience at each premiere of new revelations of the subterfuge behind the scenes, shining light at each rising of the curtain, exposing ways we buy and use the products of the slave trade without our knowledge, and shining out on each show as each act plays out how this drama destroys lives, minds, hearts and spirits.

  7. Thanks!!! All of the above! I have been reading articles from many sources, watching some news programs and documentaries that deal with various forms of trafficking… and since you brought light on this last year for me, I have noticed that the entire practice, in it’s many forms, is being slowly but surely brought into the light worldwide! Am I wrong in my observation…from your perspective?

  8. Adele, which kind of resources do you prefer in order to take in information? Reading? Audiobooks? Video? Experiential? Lecture? You let me know and I can guide you to what could best serve your education experience. : )

  9. I have thought I would like to help empower young women in other countries as well as possibly our own, as to how they can prepare themselves to stand up against this affront to human dignity and eventually fight the practice en masse! But I am ignorant as to exactly what goes on and how to dismantle the pyramid behind it…

  10. Great!!! Soon I will be ready to hear how!!!

  11. Yes, and when you are ready Adele that would be great!!! And there REALLY is LOTS you could do and LOTS of places where you would be a wonderful educational resource!!!!

  12. Yes Ina and Brooke…I think that is the crux of the beginning of the way to end this nightmare…

  13. This dirty business needs exposure and education.

  14. Yes…but I really would like to do more….maybe from an educational standpoint…when I am settled for a while…I will come back to you on this…

  15. Dearest Adeley, so much of it hinges on education. So many people are unaware of the insidious nature of the various ways that human-trafficking happens. There are so many variant forms and some many different catch phrases that companies, human traffickers and slave owners use to get around peoples awareness. So seriously, just being as aware as possible and talking about it with as many people as you can will begin to change the legitimacy of the practice in the world.

  16. I wish I could really do something to help to end this horrible practice!

  17. Too many people are suffering..and are abandoned..It is a shame..