Turning the lens on a hidden modern-day problem
March 29th, 2011
12:35 PM ET

Turning the lens on a hidden modern-day problem

For photographer Kay Chernush, a passion for shedding light on human trafficking began with a plane ride across the Atlantic Ocean.

"I was going overseas, and sat next to somebody who, it turned out, worked at the TIP (Trafficking in Persons) office at the State Department. We talked all the way across the Atlantic, and I was very interested in learning more about the subject."

Chernush would later be invited to trek across Asia and eastern Europe in 2004 to document cases of human trafficking, using her talents as a photographer. Her imagery would become an integral part of the 2005 "Trafficking in Persons" report - a report mandated by Congress to be compiled by the State Department each year.

A self-described well-traveled person, Chernush was shocked that she had not noticed the obvious signs of modern-day slavery.

"I'd traveled for many years, I'd lived overseas - how had this escaped me? It just grabbed me emotionally, the fact that people's lives are so precarious."

What began as one assignment has turned into a humanitarian passion. Chernush continues to work with a number of different groups attempting to highlight modern-day slavery. She continues to exhibit her work shedding light on human trafficking with various non-government organizations around the world.

"I'm enamored by that idea - so egalitarian, reaching people who are not necessarily aware of the problem. It's not the anti-trafficking crowd, not the gallery-going crowd, it's everyday people."