Photographer Stephanie Sinclair has dedicated her career to documenting the practice of child marriage around the world.
From the pages of National Geographic to here at Refinery29, Sinclair's stunning portraits have drawn attention to this widespread issue — it's estimated that every two seconds, a girl is forced into marriage, according to Sinclair's nonprofit, Too Young To Wed.
But Sinclair wondered how putting some of the girls she met behind the lens rather than in front of it could help them tell their own stories.
"The idea was simple: to introduce storytelling through photography as a way to help them better realize their self-worth and the value of their voice. Aside from technical skills, when you teach photography, you are helping students feel confident about themselves and the way they see the world," Sinclair told Refinery29.
"Our goal was to help them understand that what have to say is important, that they are important...We wanted to open their minds and expose them to new possibilities for their own futures," she added.
The first workshop, held in Kenya in January in partnership with the Samburu Girls Foundation and Fujifilm, brought together 10 girls who had escaped forced marriages and were rebuilding their lives. Some had run away when they learned their families planned to marry them off. Others had been forced to marry men five times their age. All are now in school.
The girls were paired up with partners and taught the technical aspects of shooting portraits. They then had the opportunity to practice photographing each other.
"This was the first time the girls had ever picked up a camera, yet the artistry in their photographs was astounding," Sinclair said.
The project did more than produce powerful images. The process of photographing one another became a cathartic exercise for the girls.
"What we didn't anticipate was how much they would share with one another, their traumas related to child marriage and female genital mutilation and circumcision...Unexpectedly, the workshop became a type of art therapy, which is more than I could have ever hoped for from this program," she said.
Bolstered by the success, Too Young To Wed is in the process of organizing a second workshop this fall. Ahead, the girls share their portraits and their powerful stories with Refinery29.
Editor's note: All captions were provided by Too Young To Wed and have been edited for clarity.
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