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The Importance of History: An amazing Investigation into Black Lives on Brooklyn Street January 28, 2017

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This amazing story from Annie Correal who finds an abandoned photo album on a street in Brooklyn and tracks down the family

who put it together highlights the importance of personal and local history to record what is lost on a daily basis.

Personal history is ephemeral, like people’s lives and can easily finish up on the trash heap.

Annie Correal’s personal adventure and perseverance has given us an eloquent insight into black lives

and a wonderful history lesson.


Love and Black Lives,
in Pictures Found
on a Brooklyn Street

A discarded photo album reveals a rich history of black lives, from the
segregated South to Harlem dance halls to a pretty block in Crown Heights.



One night six years ago, on a quiet side street in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, I came across a photo album that had been put out with the trash. I lived around the corner, and I was walking home when I saw it sitting beneath a streetlamp on Lincoln Place.

It looked handmade, with a wooden cover bound with a shoelace. But it had been tied up with twine, like a bunch of old newspapers, and left atop a pile of recycling.

Whitney Richardson New York Times: African Stories January 11, 2017

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The news is ethnocentric and parochial. Unless it has an international impact on business or economics or a countries vested interests it remains off the Western radar.  Whitney Richardson pushes an agenda for the use of local photographers and journalists to increase exposure to stories that are important internationally. When I covered the Orange Revolution as a freelancer in Ukraine in 2004 most of the working photographers for Western publications were from Western Countries. The wire agencies were not organised enough to be a threat to freelancers. That changed subsequently. As in Iraq and Afghanistan and now Syria local photographers are extensively used. Local contact and local knowledge are more than useful for quality journalism. Bohdan Warchomij Metaphor Online

Whitney Richardson NEW YORK TIMES

Akintunde Akinleye was at home one December morning in 2006 when a friend called him with urgent news. Hours earlier, a petroleum pipeline had exploded in a town outside Lagos, Nigeria, his home city, leaving more than 200 people dead. Hopping on his motorbike with his camera, Mr. Akinleye, a Reuters staff photographer based in Nigeria, swerved through miles of thick traffic and arrived on site in less than 30 minutes.

Pacing through flaming rubble, he spotted an older adult man carrying a bright blue bucket of water. Mr. Akinleye lifted his camera and took several shots of him rinsing his face as dark smoke stained the sky. His final frame was circulated to news media globally, and even made the front page of The New York Times. It also earned him a World Press Photo award for spot news single in 2007, making him the first Nigerian to receive the prestigious award.

Mr. Akinleye’s sudden thrust into news media prominence is rare for even the most experienced photojournalists, but it’s an even rarer occurrence for an African one. Of the most covered news events in sub-Saharan Africa over the past several years — including antigovernment protests in South Africa and Ethiopia, the Boko Haram kidnapping in northern Nigeria and West Africa’s Ebola crisis — only a handful of stories were assigned to African photographers by major international publications.

The absence of local coverage in international markets has also been reflected in the top awards. According to World Press Photo’s State of Photography 2015 report, only 2 percent of their contest submissions annually come from African photographers.

Since World Press Photo released its initial report in 2015, Lars Boering, the organization’s managing director, said accessing data about their contest applicants as well as surveying the photojournalism industry were critical first steps in closing this gap. The organization recently held its first Joop Swart Master Class in Kenya, working with photographers across East Africa, and plans to host another one, in Accra, Ghana, this March. Other organizations, including the Magnum Foundation and the Prince Claus fund, have also invested in supporting photojournalists on the continent.

“We needed to flip it open. It will make us vulnerable, but it was important to start talking about it,” said Mr. Boering, who is based in Amsterdam. “There are a billion people living in Africa. We should make sure the visuals we get reflect our worldview.”

Mr. Akinleye, who has spent the past decade covering West Africa for Reuters, said as digital cameras have become more accessible, he has seen a surge in the number of local photographers in the field. But better equipment hasn’t necessarily equated to more opportunities for aspiring photojournalists, he said. With the absence of formal photojournalism programs at universities, young photographers are not learning the fundamentals of storytelling and editing, Mr. Akinleye said. Independent newspapers in his country have also struggled to navigate hostile relations with government leaders known for threatening the local news media, he said.

“Young people are asking, how do we get work,” said Mr. Akinleye, who noted that the majority of working photographers he knew in Africa were stringers for wire services.

“I have told them to look for opportunities abroad to gain exposure and to learn the ethical standards of the industry,” he said. “If I wasn’t working with Reuters, I probably would just be part of the crowd.”

International news agencies, including The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse, have long been entry points for local photojournalists, especially during times of extreme conflict. During the United States-led war in Iraq, news organizations heavily depended on local news photographers, out of concern for safety and financial pressures, to document the scene. Within months of training alongside other wire photographers, Iraqi photojournalists began dominating international coverage of the war — producing award-winning images of the political transformation in their home country.

“We had taxi drivers and former studio photographers and we gave them cameras,” said two-time Pulitzer prize winning photojournalist, Muhammed Muheisen, who is currently the chief photographer for the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan for the AP. “The region was getting a lot of attention, so it became a place where Iraqi photographers could develop and show their talent.”

Khalid Mohammed, AP’s chief photographer in Iraq, was one of those emerging talents. Mr. Mohammed, who worked for an Iraqi newspaper before the war, gained the reputation of beating foreign photojournalists to deadly scenes and was one of six Iraqis on the AP team that won the Pulitzer Prize for photography in 2005. Many of his most striking images, including one showing the charred bodies of U.S. contractors hanging from a bridge in Fallujah in 2004, appeared in publications around the world.

“I choose to cover the war to expose the crimes and violations against my people,” Mr. Mohammed, who is currently in Mosul, wrote in an email interview. “You had to be ready to accept the sacrifice and know that this picture may be the last image,” he said.


Daniel Berehulak in the Philippines for the New York Times December 12, 2016

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Photo Daniel Berehulak for the New York Times

New York Times photographer Daniel Berehulak photographed 41 murder scenes — and 57 bodies — in 35 days in Manila.

This amazing story elevates investment in journalism and Daniel Berehulak, Pulitzer Prize winner for his coverage of the ebola crisis in Africa, is the right photographer to analyse what is happening to the country.

When  Rodrigo Duterte became President of the Philippines  he said he would be happy to kill millions of people to rid his country of drugs. Already, President Duterte’s war has claimed thousands of lives, including nearly 2,000 reportedly killed by Philippine police.


Photo Daniel Berehulak for the New York Times

Photo Daniel Berehulak for the New York Times

Photo Daniel Berehulak for the New York Times

Photo Daniel Berehulak for the New York Times

Photo Daniel Berehulak for the New York Times

The Savagery of Isis: Retaking Falluja; Photos and Text by Bryan Denton for the New York Times August 4, 2016

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Bryan Denton

I accompanied Iraq’s elite counterterrorism force and other units from the Iraqi military and the federal police into Falluja at the end of June, during the final days of their long battle to wrest back control of the city from the Islamic State.

Falluja was the first Iraqi city to fall to the Islamic State, more than two years ago, and the militant group had all that time to learn the city, sowing traps everywhere. It was only after a long siege that the Iraqi forces moved to take the center.

In the last stages of the battle, members of the counterterrorism force, in coordination with other Iraqi units, fought their way into the neighborhood of Al Jolan in Falluja, where Islamic State fighters were making their last stand. As we moved through the bombed-out streets, gun battles raged, and the insurgents’ improvised mortars exploded among the narrow alleyways and rubble in a last-ditch effort to halt the advance of Iraq’s security forces.

What, exactly, the Islamic State fighters were holding out for was lost on me. The city had been surrounded for months. Nearly all the civilians were gone, either driven out by their rulers’ brutality in the early days, or escaping during breaks in the fighting as the Iraqi forces approached.

The Iraqi Army, special forces and the federal police relied on heavy artillery, close air support from United States aircraft and a patient advance through the city.

Bryan Denton

The remaining Islamic State fighters were forced to be opportunistic. During one visit with the Iraqi special forces, I saw a soldier who had been shot through his right calf, either by a sniper’s round or random gunfire.

Gruesome markers of the battle dotted the roads leading into Falluja.

A charred body of an Islamic State fighter had been left on the side of a road that the Iraqi forces had bulldozed through a small field south of the city as they began the assault. A metal cable was tied tight around one of the body’s legs, and the head had been lopped off.

A police commander chastised two Shiite militiamen who were taking cellphone pictures of each other stomping on the corpse triumphantly.

Bryan Denton

One officer, who spoke openly only on the condition of anonymity, citing military protocol, told me that the Islamic State was different from the insurgents he was used to fighting. You can negotiate with insurgents, he said in English laced with military jargon he picked up from years of working with United States Special Forces, but the Islamic State fighters seemed to have embraced unbridled and inflexible savagery.

Bryan Denton

Another officer, Lt. Hassan Almosawi, from Iraq’s Emergency Response Brigade, took me to an Islamic State prison his unit had discovered in a once upscale neighborhood in central Falluja.


Tyler Hicks discusses his and the NYT’s fellow photographers Pulitzer Prize for capturing the resolve of refugees on the shore of Lesbos and in Europe May 2, 2016

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Tyler Hicks, a staff photographer for The New York Times, joined “PBS NewsHour” to discuss his recent Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for capturing the resolve of refugees, the perils of their journeys and the struggle of host countries to take them in:

Photo Tyler Hicks

“This was a really interesting story because there’s a small amount of space for all these refugees arriving along the shores of Lesbos. You had tens of thousands of people flooding into this space that’s just a couple of miles long. … This [photo] was unusual because it was just before dark and there were no other boats coming. This one last boat came in and there was no one there to receive them, no help for them. … I really felt it was important to capture that moment.”

Daniel Berehulak reporting from Nepal for the New York Times May 21, 2015

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Foot Soldiers: Christopher Griffith New York Times May 3, 2015

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Foot Soldiers



Using a wooden box fitted with a lens on one side and a silver-plated sheet of copper on the other, Louis Daguerre set out, in 1838, to capture the image of a Paris street. The technique required a long exposure, too long to catch anything that was moving. So the shoppers and flâneurs who were bustling about that day are lost memories in the now-famous image “Boulevard du Temple.” All that remain are the trees and houses — and two motionless figures in the lower left-hand corner: a shoe shiner and his customer. They are the first two people ever to be photographed, in a strange moment of urban intimacy — one that slows the rush to a halt, suspending time.

In a city now lousy with canvas uppers and flip-flops, the bootblack has lost some of his cachet. But he was once a highly romanticized fixture of urban mythology — in popular imagination, often a street-savvy scamp or a jolly older fellow, laboring to assist and delight. (For example, take the lyrics to Red Foley’s 1950 hit “Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy”: “Have you ever passed the corner of Fourth and Grand?/Where a little ball o’ rhythm has a shoe shine stand/People gather ’round and they clap their hand/He’s a great big bundle o’ joy.”) In reality, the people who shine shoes in New York today are mostly immigrants from Latin America — mainly Ecuador — and they labor for the same prosaic reason we all do.

Jessica Muy shines shoes up to six days a week, 11 hours a day, at the Leather Spa in the lower concourse of Grand Central Terminal. She told The Times that a good day brings $80 or $90 and a slow one brings as little as $40. What extra she has, she sends back home to her young daughter in Ecuador. Alex Valente, who works at the East 55th Street branch of Leather Spa, has had better luck. “I made my dreams come true in shoe shining,” he said. “I raised my son here, put him through college, helped with his wedding, and now I’m retiring and moving back to my farm in Brazil.”

Nearly two centuries after Daguerre immortalized that Parisian bootblack, Christopher Griffith photographed the hands of 52 Manhattan shoe shiners. The images are difficult to place. Flesh bound in cloth: They suggest fashion photography or classical statuary or even religious imagery, shroud-wrapped bodies in deathly repose. Inspired by one of the Irving Penn photographs of Miles Davis’s hand — leathery skin, natural light — Griffith said he tried to use “the texture of the skin, the crevices and the lines” to convey a sense of physical and personal history. The project started with Leonard Johnson, who worked at Drago Shoe Repair at the Port Authority until recently, when he retired after a 50-year career as a shoe shiner. His hands, Griffith said, “have this etching of year to year to year to year doing something physical.”

Philip Toledano: Forever Young April 10, 2015

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Looking Ahead to Photos of Old Age

By James Estrin  Apr. 9, 2015

For most of his 46 years, Phil Toledano lived what he considered to be a fortunate life with loving parents, a successful photographic career, and a wife and a daughter whom he adored. But when his mother died unexpectedly in 2006, and he found himself the caretaker for his 95-year-old father, Mr. Toledano’s rosy outlook changed.

This week Lens is featuring a selection of the photographers who were chosen to attend the New York Portfolio Review on April 11 and 12. The blog will update this list each day with featured picks.“When you’re privileged and lucky the way I have been, you expect your whole life will be like that,” he said. “When my mother died, it made me realize that you don’t have any control over your destiny at all. It’s delusional to think you do. I became quite fearful of what sharp turns life had in store for me and what other terrible unforeseen things might happen.”

Mr. Toledano chronicled his father’s slow decline and death in “Days With My Father” — but he could not shake off his existential angst. He realized that he either had to confront his fears for his future or be consumed by them.

The result is the book “Maybe,” to be published by Dewi Lewis in June. A short film by Joshua Seftel, “The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano,” which documents the creation of the photographs, premieres next week at the Tribeca Film Festival.


Mr. Toledano started with a DNA test that informed him that despite his slim physique he had a high risk of obesity and heart disease. When he asked fortune tellers, psychics and numerologists what the darkest possible outcomes might be, he was told he could become an alcoholic or commit suicide. To round out the picture, he turned to insurance actuarial tables, which showed that, at some point … he would die.

After listing his fears in order of the things he least wanted to happen, Mr. Toledano was fully prepared and started photographing. There was only one problem: How do you photograph what has not yet happened?

The answer is: with great difficulty. And prosthetics.

Mr. Toledano took the information — from scientific to anecdotal — and created scenarios that illustrated possible “Future Phils.” He enlisted Adam Morrow, who specializes in makeup and prosthetics for movies, to create masks that transformed Mr. Toledano into an aging hipster, a 90-year-old man in a wheelchair, an overweight office worker and a stroke victim. The elaborate photo shoots included a stylist, assistants and actors.

It took four or five hours to put on the prosthetics, and it was challenging to supervise the shoots while being the subject as well as the photographer. But the real difficulties were emotional, not physical.

“It was really exhausting because I was confronting the darkest possible experiences,” Mr. Toledano said. “I was making tangible the worst possible things I could imagine. It’s not enjoyable to see yourself like that.”

Phil Toledano during the process of transforming into a 90-year-old man.

Phil Toledano during the process of transforming into a 90-year-old man.Credit Stephen Maing

Sebastião Salgado’s Journey From Brazil to the World: by Larry Rohter New York Times Lens March 30, 2015

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Sebastião Salgado’s

Journey From
Brazil to the World

By Larry Rohter 

Sebastião Salgado has won every major prize a photographer can receive, with his crisp, compassionate black-and-white images, many of them from war zones and other locations of human suffering, hanging on the walls of museums, galleries and private collections around the world. His books, including “Workers,” “Migrations,” “Sahel” and, most recently, the nature-oriented “Genesis,” have consistently met with commercial and critical success.

Now, as if to complete the picture, a documentary film about Mr. Salgado, 71, and his work is about to opens in theaters across the United States. “The Salt of the Earth,” a collaborative effort between the German director Wim Wenders, who is also a photographer, and Mr. Salgado’s son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, was nominated for the Oscar for best documentary film, won a prize at the Cannes Film Festival last spring and last month was also awarded a César, the French equivalent of an Academy Award.

The documentary features Mr. Salgado explaining, in French and Portuguese, how he came to take some of his best-known images, such as those from the Serra Pelada series shot in a gold mine in the Amazon 30 years ago. But it also makes clear that his path to becoming a renowned photographer was arduous: He was born deep in the isolated Brazilian interior, scrimped to get an economics degree, left his country and took refuge in France after a military dictatorship seized power in Brazil, and in the mid-1990s suffered what he called “a deep psychological crisis” after covering the genocidal civil wars in Rwanda and Bosnia and had to recalibrate the focus of his work.

Nowadays, although “my vision of the human being has not changed, I no longer think just of my own species,” Mr. Salgado, speaking in Portuguese, said in a telephone interview from his studio in Paris last month. “That’s not my only preoccupation. Today I think of the other species too, of the ants, the termites, the whales, they are as important as my own. The behavior of our species, what we do to nature, to other species, to each other, is awful, so I have the same skepticism about us that I always had.”

That broadened interest in environmental concerns is documented in detail in “The Salt of the Earth,” which shows him working on the “Genesis” project in locales as far-flung as the Amazon, the Arctic and New Guinea and also accompanies him as he tries to undo the environmental degradation afflicting his native region through a foundation he set up for that purpose, the Instituto Terra. Mr. Salgado talked about those and other subjects with Larry Rohter. Their conversation has been edited.


You’ve largely avoided movies in the past. What made you willing to do this documentary film? Was it because your son was involved?


It wasn’t a decision taken easily in the beginning. Juliano had always wanted to do the story of his family, he’s the child of immigrants, we came here to Paris and in the beginning we were kind of refugees, it was during the time of the Brazilian dictatorship, and we remained here. You must have seen the film and noted that my father is in it. That was done around 1998 or 1999, when Juliano was very young, just starting to do cinema.

Then, around 2009, Wim Wenders came to our house, and I showed him the photographs from “Genesis.” I said to him, ‘This is the project I am working on.’ I made a slide show, I did conferences, I put some music to it. I didn’t know anything about cinema, but I asked: Is there a way to make a film of this? That was my idea. In my head, I really wanted the images to enter into that world in some fashion.


Wim Wenders makes a very interesting observation in the film, saying that your training as an economist helped prepare you for the kind of photography you do. Do you think that’s true? Did it help, and if so, in what way?


Yes, it helped. In reality, when you consider a photographer, he’s the fruit of his heritage. My visual heritage comes from the mountains where I grew up and a lot of my intellectual heritage from having been an economist. The economics I did was not the economics of business administration, it’s not micro. I did macroeconomics — the economics of public finances, political economy, I studied Marx and Keynes. In reality, that kind of economics is a kind of quantified sociology, so that kind of preparation gave me a real training. I had to study, I had to read a lot of philosophy, political science, I had to read a whole bunch of things that gave me a solid grounding, and that was something fabulous.

So when I became a photographer, I had a series of instruments for analysis and synthesis, and clearly all of that helped me.

I would also mention my origins as a Brazilian, from a country in social gestation. So I came with all of that in my head, and my photography is that. And here’s another thing: I am an immigrant, so I was also doing my own story. All of this contributes to my work. My work is the result of my training, my heritage, cultural and ideological and ethical.


You’re always described as a “social photographer.” Do you agree with that assessment?


It’s limiting. Listen, I am not a social photographer. I am not an economic photographer. I’m not a photojournalist. Photography is much more than that. Photography is my life. It’s my way of life, and my language. I went to photograph the things that I had a great curiosity to see and to organize. I felt a certain revulsion, and a compulsion to show that others also have dignity, that dignity is not an exclusive property of the rich countries of the north but exists all over the planet. That’s what photography was for me, my language, my life and my way of going about and doing things.

I’m a photographer without adjectives, and that is a big privilege, because photography as an instrument for capturing images is today being totally transformed. The telephones that exist today, the majority of photographs taken now are with them, and people have completely modified them on their computers. So photography is being transformed into something else. Maybe in 20 or 30 years it will no longer exist, it will have become something else. I’m not saying this with any kind of criticism, I don’t have any bitterness in me, it’s evolution, that’s the way it goes. There are new options, so let’s go there, that’s what our society has done.

But I’ll tell you one thing: I’ve been immensely privileged to have been able for 40 or 50 years of my life to go wherever I wanted and participate in history. That’s one of the things that most surprised me in the movie, to see the proof that I had the privilege to take part in the main stories of the time I live in, to be there.


Sebastião Salgado in the field.

Sebastião Salgado in the field.Credit Photo Courtesy of Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas Images/Sony Pictures Classics

Should we regard the “Genesis” project, with its focus on nature and the environment, as a continuation of your previous work? Or is it a rupture with your past?


No, in no way. I’ve always worked with stories. This is a story I wanted to do at that moment. You know, I discovered photography when I was already in Paris, preparing for a doctorate in economics. But the first images of my life, I saw them there at my father’s ranch, as a child, and they remained in my head. I took Wim to shoot there, and in the film there’s an image where I’m seated in what seems like a photograph, and then I begin to move.

That’s where my father would take me when I was a boy. The ranch was large, and it took four or five hours on foot to get to that place, since my father didn’t like to ride on horseback. We’d get there and sit, mainly at the end of October or the beginning of November, the beginning of the rainy season, when the clouds would arrive, loaded and heavy, and the light would be remarkable. It was such a variety of light, with those mountains in the distance, like you see in the film. That gave me such a sensation of pleasure, it was the most beautiful and profound thing I’d seen in my life. In reality, I only came to photography later, but the images were already there, and that light! Even today that’s where it comes from, from those places.


Critics sometimes say that your images are “too pretty” in their portrayal of horrible things. How do you react to that?


It’s not my problem. I can’t do what I do in any other way. Once I was talking with [Gabriel] García Márquez, he had become a friend and helped me with certain stories, and he said to me: ‘I basically write the same thing over and over. They are different versions of the same story.’ And it’s true. He couldn’t write in any fashion other than the way he did. When you write, you have your style, you have your form. Photographers are like that too, except that our language is a formal language, an aesthetic. Because we work within a square space it’s formal by necessity. So I can’t do things any other way than my own. There are people who like that, people who don’t, people who critique. Fine. But that’s the problem of people who look at the pictures. They may be right, they may be wrong, but it’s their problem, not mine.


The director Wim Wenders, left, with Sebastião Salgado.

The director Wim Wenders, left, with Sebastião Salgado.Credit Sebastião Salgado/Amazonas Images/Sony Pictures Classics

I have a philosophical question regarding how you think about what you do. Is it journalism or art or both?


I don’t consider myself an artist. I have a concept of art that might be a little different, as something that tells the big story of humanity. The other day I was at a museum exhibition in Barcelona with my wife, a beautiful exposition of African art, of work instruments, pots for carrying water, etc. At the moment they were made, they were not art objects, but instruments for daily living that referred to that people and which today are considered art objects because they tell a story about that people.

If by chance my photographs, 50 or 60 years from now, should be considered a reference to the moment in history in which I lived, if they should remain that for future generations, then I think they might be an artistic product that made an artistic contribution and have become everyone’s heritage. But I can’t say that with the photography I am doing that I have achieved that, because that would be enormously pretentious on my part. I have to wait for history to say whether they are or are not. I know that few people can do photography, that you have to feel that instinct within you in that fraction of a second. Not everyone can do that, I recognize this. A photograph has my story, my ethic, my aesthetic, my ideology. It’s all there, my father, my mother. So it has a strong diversity, it tells stories. But you have to wait awhile to see. I feel very uncomfortable when I see a photographer presenting himself as an artist. I don’t have that pretension.


So now that you’ve been involved in a movie, I was wondering: Will you ever do cinema again?


No, once is sufficient. Enough already. Because there’s something I discovered about movie people: They are on a planet that it is completely different from photography. We photographers are instinctive, when something happens, we are there, photography becomes part of the phenomenon. You have to do it in a fraction of a second, you’re inside it. But when movie people are with you, oh my God, it’s so slow! And it takes a lot of time and energy, because you’re repeating things over and over. Cinema is very tough, very demanding. So I prefer photography.


Katie Orlinski: Bought and Sold in Nepal March 9, 2015

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Katie Orlinski is a photographer and journalist and cinematographer with boundless energy and an effervescent smile and a passionate interest in the difficult stories in photojournalism. I first met her at Visa Pour L’Image, an important photojournalism festival in Perpignan and was impressed by her compassion. Yesterday the world celebrated International Women’s Day and Katie’s story is so appropriate in a world where women continue to be devalued and marginalised. Recently I returned to her website and was impressed by the breadth of her work. The following is her report for the New York Times from Nepal: Bohdan Warchomij


NEPAL may be known for natural beauty and Mount Everest, but there is a dark side to this small, picturesque country. Women and girls are being bought, sold and smuggled across the Nepal-India border. Although reliable data on the scope of the issue is difficult to gather, Unicef reports that as many as 7,000 women and girls are trafficked out of Nepal to India every year, and around 200,000 are now working in Indian brothels.

Katie Orlinski traveled to Nepal last spring to document the growing problem of sex trafficking and unsafe migration, spending the majority of time in Katmandu and along the Nepal-India border.


“One of the women I talked with was Charimaya Tamang, who 19 years ago went out to the fields to cut grass in her village in Nepal. Typically she would have gone with other women from her village, but that day she was alone. A group of men grabbed her from behind, tied her hands and made her swallow “a powder.” When she woke up she was in a city in northern India. “I had never seen tall buildings before,” she recalled. It was a lot hotter than her village and the men offered her a soda. “I didn’t want to drink it but I was so thirsty,” she said. The heat and soda were her last memories before finding herself in a Mumbai brothel under the care of a woman she called “Auntie,” where she remained in forced prostitution for 22 months.


The sex trafficking starts with the procurers in Nepal, who might be anyone: a stranger with a fake job to offer — or a girl’s own brother in-law. Then someone else escorts the women across the open border and out of the country. “The pimp might take a girl across the border in a cycle-rickshaw and put a tikka dot on her forehead so it looks like she and he are married,” said Pamela Gurung, an activist affiliated with the Nepalese branch of the Catholic nonprofit group Caritas Internationalis, which among other things fights human trafficking throughout Nepal. Anti-trafficking workers have started to train border police officers to be on the lookout for scared-looking women, suspicious couples or men with multiple women. But border police officers are not paid much. Many are bribed as part of the vast criminal network of trafficking between India and Nepal.

A brothel pimp or madam pays close to $2,000 for one trafficked Nepalese girl, according to Rupa Rai, head of Caritas Nepal’s gender department. The girl is then obligated to repay this fee over time. Charimaya Tamang was the first woman in Nepal to file charges against her trafficker and win. The very same men that made her drink that soda were caught and put in jail, she said.

Ms. Tamang then began advocating on behalf of other trafficked women. Today she is married with two children and lives in a small room on the third floor of a dilapidated concrete building in Katmandu. On the wall above her bed is a glass display case nearly 12 feet long filled with awards. The situation in Nepal is improving in certain ways, thanks to activists like her, international pressure and better coordination with the Indian police. But the problem is daunting, and the number of trafficked women continues to grow.”