2012 was the most amazing year for my career that I've ever had.
Our wedding photography business (www.ChicShotStudio.com) blew up and we were doing tons of shoots all over the country and booking tons of shoots for the following year. The commercial & editorial side of our photography business (www.JeremiahStanley.com) was also doing very well and included my being selected as one of 100 photographers worldwide to attend an elite workshop in NY (Eddie Adams Workshop) where I was introduced to the worlds top photographers, editors, and art buyers. I had meetings with world renowned advertising agencies, JWT & R/GA, on Madison Ave and met with Reader's Digest, Maxim, National Geographic, and Esquire to name a few.
It was while I was sitting in a meeting on the 34th floor of the Hearst Tower overlooking all of Midtown Manhattan during the Esquire meeting that I thought to myself, "This is it. All the hard work, the long hours, the shoots, the designing, the editing, all of it was about to pay off. The commercial photography business that I had been dreaming of for years was about to happen."
What did happen was completely shocking to us and it changed our entire outlook on what we do. My wife and I were introduced through a friend to the world of sex trafficking and slavery. What we saw and read absolutely astounded us.
The more we researched, two things began to happen. The first thing was that we realized how dark and evil the world of slavery really is. Poverty, lack of sanitary water and food, AIDS, Cholera - all of those are massive world problems, but none of them seemed as utterly and absolutely evil as sex trafficking and slavery did to us. The second thing that happened was that we began to realize that not only did the average person not really know that this was happening around the world, but also that there are very few people documenting it. There are a lot of really great organizations out there, like Traffick Free, doing some really amazing work, but there's very few photographers out there trying to communicate to the world what sex trafficking and slavery actually looks like. We knew then that we had to do something.
Personally, we felt that God has given us some amazing gifts and talents, and we need to do more with them than just make money. We need to leverage what's been given to us to fight for those who are unable to fight for themselves. Imagine a world in which everyone used their skills and gifts to leverage and fight for those who cannot fight back? I realize it sounds ridiculous and maybe it is, but there would be much less slavery in the world if that happened. The only way to find out if it could happen is to begin taking the first steps yourself.
We decided to launch a portrait project to begin documenting all the different types of slavery in the world and to show exactly what it looks like. We brainstormed and researched for weeks and weeks about where we should go, what we should do, and how we would get there. We eventually decided to begin to tackle the issue of sex trafficking because it's the most lucrative type of slavery, the most exploitative, and the hardest to believe. Although we could have worked in just about any country in the world, including the U.S., (because sex slavery exists in every one of them) we decided on Greece because it's the "gateway" into Europe for slavery traffickers. Literally 90% of all trafficking victims entering Europe, enter through Greece.
Last week we kicked off our fundraising efforts through a crowd-funding site called USA Projects and we're almost 1/3 of the way to our goal of $15,000 which will allow our team to work in Greece for the month of July 2013. We've partnered with a few organizations that have teams already on the ground in Athens and Thessaloniki where we'll be doing the bulk of our work. We'll be using the images we make to launch future slavery projects when we get back and they'll be using the images to help market and fund-raise for their respective organizations.
We need all the help we can muster to get this project in front of individuals, companies, groups, and social justice teams. Please click this link, or watch the video below and share it within your network of friends and contacts to begin taking steps toward ending modern-day slavery.
Thank you so very much for your help and support!