Today our senses can be numbed to the suffering of people in distant lands despite frequent exposure in the media. We hear about child labour and abuse but somehow the terrible reports lose their impact when sandwiched between the latest horror movie and a celebrity shock ‘divorce’ announcement. In today’s ‘Ghost Children‘ report I produce some images of child suffering in the west – images that shocked a nation into making legislative changes to stop the abuse. Perhaps they will help you to remember that this kind of ill-treatment of children is still common in some parts of the world.
I was recently very moved to see a report of a young Syrian refugee child living in Turkey who had been forced into child labour in order to help feed his family. He worked in a shoe factory cutting leather and constructing shoes – working under dangerous conditions with chemicals that were probably doing untold harm to his little body. Clearly any thought of education or spending time playing with other children had evaporated – his lost childhood makes him one of our modern world’s ‘Ghost Children‘.
This inspired me to create my latest audio-visual project which I have called ‘Ghost Children‘. Clearly I must respect the rights to privacy of modern children so to illustrate the plight of underage workers I turned to archive photographs of boys and girls in similar circumstances in the USA. Here I had no data privacy concerns because the children in my pictures would today have an average age of over 110. I believe it is safe to assume therefore that they have all departed from this life.
As most of the original photographs were from around 1910 or earlier it was necessary to digitally enhance them to make them suitable for the video. However despite their age the quality and detail of the original pictures was excellent. Whenever I look at the faces of the children in the photographs I feel they are sitting in the room with me. They may have died long ago but their presence lives on through these pictures.
The challenge for me was to compose a piece of music that adequately captured the deep sadness I felt at this enforced loss of childhood. So much innocent fun and opportunity had been taken away from these little boys and girls. To capture my mood I prepared the visual part of the project first and then simply added the music, track by track, – inspired by the images I saw. Quite simply the music was created for and ‘with’ the ghost children. Here is the video:
It is easy to be distracted by the smiling faces – but take a look at how many of those laughing children were not wearing shoes, or had clothes that were quite simply dirty old rags. On this page I have included a few stills from the video (there are many more in the film). To see larger versions simply click on the photos below. I will stop writing here and let the pictures speak for themselves.
If you are interested in reading my other health focused articles try the following