Monday, February 22, 2010

The IMPACT online exhibition

No Retirement Plan - Revisitng my old subjects
Above: Josna, 60, sex worker.

What if your only retirement option was to sell your fourteen-year-old granddaughter's body? Less than a year ago Jova had little choice but to make Munnie begin work as a prostitute in one of the Bangladeshi brothel in which Jova's lived out most of her life. Munnie's mother works there too, but doesn't earn enough money to support both her daughter and her forty-seven-year-old mother. Jova, who now has a difficult time attracting men, so Munnie has become the family's main source of income.

Above: A family of sex workers Munnie, 15, center, mother Mukta, 33, left, and grandmother Jova, 47.

Above: Munnie with a customer.

Above: Munnie cries after a customer beat her.

Josna, 60, can't remember how old she was when she first entered the sex industry. She's not even sure that she's actually 60, but it's her best guess. She wishes she could put Tanya, her seven-year-old, on a different career path, but children raised in brothels are often left with few options but to follow in their mother's footsteps, passing the profession on to the next generation. Tanya, who is never far from her mother, often sits outside while Josna takes clients. The shy, skinny girl with cropped hair doesn't know it yet, but her future is all but predetermined. Most girls raised in brothels start taking clients of their own before their twelfth birthdays. But for Tanya, the clock is ticking fast because Josna can barely put food on the table anymore.

Above: Josna, 60, looks for a customer.

Above: Tanya, 7, waits for Josna finishing with her customer.

Puspu, a retired prostitute, puts her age between 80 and 90. She has no daughters, hence no retirement plan. While others her age are able to spend much of the week relaxing, Puspu works long hours running errands, washing linens and scrubbing floors for working prostitutes. The work is grueling, with no end in sight. Her most valuable possession is the extra bed in her one-room apartment, which she rents to sex workers by the month to supplement her income….. (text by Aina Hunter)

Above: Former sex worker Puspu sits in her room.

When I was trying to get access to brothels in Bangladesh and trying to persuade sex workers why I want to photograph them, one woman said, “A journalist like you came a few years ago and said the same thing, but nothing changed. So why should I give you time?"Another said “You will make a lot of money taking our photographs, but we don’t get anything. So why should I let you photograph me?”

What would you have said? They have been right so far, unfortunately. It’s been almost three years since I visited Bangladesh and I think of these women from time to time. It is partially guilt. They have shared their time with me and have trusted me enough to be photographed, yet I have not been able to do anything for them. I have only been able to publish the story a few times, which didn’t come close to covering the cost of my trip. I received some awards and recognition but these women didn’t receive anything. I can’t help thinking it was selfish of me to force myself on them, take photos, ask questions, and then, after gaining their trust and building relationships, I left. Never to return.
As a journalist, some people would say, it is enough to tell their story. Certainly I can
't change the world, but increasing number of photographers take action beyond documentation to make change in the lives of their subjects. Participating in a project like IMPACT* gives me the opportunity to explore a way to reconnect with these women again and just not to leave them in my hard drive anymore.

How you can help:
* CARE Bangladesh:
* Durjoy Nari Sangha: It runs child-care center to help children of stre
et-based sex-workers in Dhaka
* Nari Mukuti: HIV prevention and other forms of harm reduction among sex workers.
* All the individual print sales of my brothel series will be donated to NGO that help children of sex workers. View series:

Lovely, 15, works under a madam.

Sisters Nodi,14, right, and Shetu, 17, work and live together.

Shumita, 12, has just started working as a sex worker. Her mother is also a sex worker.

Sex worker Ratna, 13, was sold to a madam

Welcome to the new IMPACT online exhibition, a project exploring the internet as a venue for insightful photographic work. In an effort to remind viewers of the important role photographers play around the world, we invited an array of imagemakers to share galleries on their blogs (like this one) that comprise 12 images representing an experience when they had an impact on or were impacted. By clicking on the links below the IMPACT logo, you can move through the exhibition, viewing other galleries by different photographers. You can also click the IMPACT logo to be taken to a post on the liveBooks RESOLVE Blog where you can see an index of all participating photographers. We hope that by linking different photographic visions of our first topic, "Outside Looking In," we can provide a multifaceted view of the topic as well as the IMPACT individuals can have on the world around us.


  1. Hi, this is interesting and I would like to know more about your thoughts about showing work online, pros and cons. I am at

  2. Shiho,

    I am thrilled to find your blog. Such wonderful & important work you do. I am proud to call you a colleague & friend. Travel safely.


  3. Those individuals that do not prepare for their retirement investments while working find it hard to survive without job. They tend to look for another work even if they are retired just to meet their needs.

  4. creating awareness is the first step and i think people will take action by observing this coverage
    respect and great work