Child Labor Pictures
Child labor, although illegal in most countries, still continues on a wide scale, primarily in the developing world. Hundreds of thousands of children trade their childhood, education and potential in order to work long hours in horrible conditions. They do it out of necessity and these images are a testament to some of the conditions they work in.
Despite all of the horrors associated with child labor, in many instances it can be better for the children than their other options. In countries affected by dire poverty, unemployment and high levels of HIV (which can take parents out of the workforce and plummet families into abject poverty) child labor can be the only way for families to survive. In other situations a child who is unable to afford an education may only be left with the two choices, either to work or to end up on the streets. My personal experiences have shown me that although the work conditions are often horrible for the children, they are nothing compared to the conditions on the streets.
Children obviously deserve the right to an education and the right to having a childhood free from hard labor. But as long as we have countries that are extremely rich and ones that are extremely poor, the children in the poor countries will have to work. I have begun this project documenting child labor because I believe that the developed world needs to be reminded of what life is like in other places. We need to find more balance on this planet, some children have $500 video game systems while others all but kill themselves just to feed themselves and their families. We need to work more towards balancing things out.
Photographing Child Labor: Photographer's Notes
Shooting this project had its share of challenges, although not necessarily the ones I expected. Actually finding the subject matter was easy enough and getting access to the factories was also not difficult most of the time. However once inside it was a different story.
As you might imagine, it was quite exciting for the children to have a guest show up and break up the monotony of their work day. So there was a lot of waiting as for the smiles and laughter to subside and the usual grind to continue. I obviously wanted to document their lives in as realistic a way as possible and not document their reactions towards a foreigner with a big camera in the workplace.
The other major issue shooting this project was lack of light. Most of the factories were indoors with few or no windows at all and only minimal, if any lighting. To make things more complicated the conditions were usually extremely cramped which made getting good angles to shoot from very difficult. Add to that all of the movement as the children worked, I ended up with dozens of unusable frames every day.
TIP: When I work in low light situations I usually shoot in bursts of three frames at a times, as there is usually some camera shake both as you press and release the shutter. In bursts of three, the middle shot will usually be the steadiest and most usable.
Children breathe in smoke while pouring hot metal into molds in a small, industrial factory.
A young boy carries a large bag of recyclables while working in a public dump.
A child working in a factory that deals with making bags and other paper goods.
A boy coated in dirt and grease while working in a shipyard.
The boy using a makeshift bandage to cover a wound on his foot while working barefoot in a dumpsite.
A boy working alongside an older man in a factory.
A child covered in sweat while working in a garage that services cars and trucks.
Young trash collectors weighing cans and bottles at a roadside weigh station near a city dump.
Children working in a paper plant.
A young boy working with teenagers in a metal machining factory.
A boy working at a small streetside grocery store.
A child working at a sewing machine making seats for cars and vans.