Calcutta's red-light district, there over 7,000 women and girls working
as prostitutes. Often forced into the trade by poverty, abandonment or the
rampant kidnapping business which transports young girls into the sex industry
from Nepal and Bangladesh, they come from all castes. But they all descended
the social scale to the status of pariahs, without any government protection.
Only one group, perhaps, has a lower standing: Their children. Living inside the rat-infested brothels, routinely beaten, made to work, to leave their rooms when their mothers have a customer, they are children without hope, without childhoods. The girls are often "turned out" as prostitutes by their own parents at the age of fourteen or younger, and the boys frequently become drug dealers or pimps. They are children alone in the world, without advocates.
Zana Briski, became involved in the lives of these children in 1997 when she first began photographing sex workers in Sonagachi. Living in the brothels for months at a time, she quickly developed a relationship with many of the kids who, often terrorized and abused, were drawn to the rare human companionship she offered.
Fascinated by her camera, she let them shoot some pictures. It would be great, she thought, to see the world through their eyes. It was at that moment that she gave birth to the idea of offering a photographic workshop for the children of prostitutes. To do so would involve overcoming nearly insurmountable obstacles -- brothel owners, pimps, police, local politicians, mafiosi, and corrupt NGOs. "No one wants to empower the children. No one wants them to use a camera," Briski said.