[Editorial Note: This post contains images and stories pertaining to child slavery. If you do not wish to view these, do not click through to the full article]
I became a photographer to change the world. It’s just been a little bit harder than I thought it would be.
I grew up in Iran, and by the time I was twelve I had been around the world twice with my family, and had visited twenty countries along the way. I wanted to find a career that would keep me out in that world, and journalism—especially photography—seemed perfect. I saw the role that photography had played in ending the war in Vietnam and wanted to join that cadre of crusading photographers.
But when I joined the staff of National Geographic, my ambitions became somewhat more modest—or realistic: I could illuminate worlds most people would never see. As a journalist, I loved telling stories, and especially loved being behind closed doors in intimate situations that revealed something about the human condition. I tried to get that kind of photograph into every story, no matter how complicated the assignment or vast the terrain.
And they were big: cities (Jerusalem, Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong, Helsinki, Nashville, Shanghai and Venice) and countries (China, Jordan, Thailand and Taiwan). But my later stories on the women of Saudi Arabia, the geisha of Japan, and the science of beauty and love let me make the kinds of photographs I liked best. I was able to enter some very private places indeed—some never photographed before—and share them the world.
But then a newspaper article about Congress passing the Anti-Trafficking Act caught my eye and I knew that contemporary slavery was an issue I had to try to make sense of. It would be the culmination of all my passions and experience.