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Too Young To Wed: Stephanie Sinclair Depicts the Hidden World of Child Brides

The Canon Explorer of Light photographer explains how a 20-year photography project is helping to end child marriage around the globe

I began my work on the issue of child marriage in Afghanistan in 2003. I traveled to Herat, Afghanistan where I was working on a story about girls and women who self-immolated. There, I discovered a disturbing pattern among burn ward patients: most had been forced into marriage as children – many even prepubescent. In their misery [they] had preferred death over the lives they were living. After this awful realization, I began researching this centuries-old practice only to learn that there were very few photographs that showed what life was like as a child bride. Thus commenced what would now be a 20-year journey into raising awareness of the practice, as well as supporting survivors and preventing at-risk girls from facing the same awful fate globally.

Stories like these demand time and cultivation of relationships and trust. It takes time for families to bring you close, and to understand your intentions and goals when making photographs to share with the world. It calls for respect, communication, and conversation. The intimacy comes from the deeper relationship I’ve developed with the amazingly brave people I’ve had the opportunity to photograph. I’ve remained in touch with many of them through the years, watched their children grow and supported many of their communities. And they have directly impacted the work and evolution of the Too Young to Wed organization.

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