SOLD is a series of 25 anonymous portraits of victims of human trafficking in the Netherlands.
The portraits were shot in their rooms in shelters where these women and men temporarily found safety, and a home, and maybe the start of a better life. The clothes they wore were often their only possessions.
The portraits were collaborative efforts between me and the portrayed. We shared ideas and worked together to create portraits that show their strength and beauty, not portraying them as victims.
Being a victim does not define them. These are people, just like us. People who had something terrible happen to them. People who are very strong. To have lived through what happened to them takes a lot of determination and character. They are people with hopes and dreams, and hopefully a better future ahead.
The only requirement for the portraits was they had to be anonymous to protect their identities. This is because they are still in danger. Police and the justice department are still investigating these cases. 90% of the perpetrators are never caught.
I worked on this project for two-and-a-half years. It began a few years ago when I was quite surprised to learn there was a shelter for victims of human trafficking in Amsterdam. I never thought this was a problem that occurred in the Netherlands. This information stuck in my head. I wanted to know more and started researching. It took a long while to be able to meet with these brave people, and even longer to earn their trust to make their portraits. I heard many horrifying personal stories, and discovered facts and statistics about human trafficking (locally and worldwide) that are devastating and unfathomable.
I learned that trafficking and slavery is not something that only happens in countries that are “far away.” In fact it is a worldwide problem, and it is close to all of us, no matter where you live.
Some of the people I portrayed have been able to leave the shelters and try to return to normal lives. Many have left the shelters on their own and it is unclear what has become of them. Others fill the rooms at the shelters today. It is an endless stream of victims.