Ghost Children Project – Child Labour and Poverty In the USA

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.

Afghan Girl Begging
Afghan Girl Begging

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‘.

Pennsylvania Mineworkers
Pennsylvania Mineworkers

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.

Oyster Workers Showing Off Their Tools
Oyster Workers Showing Off Their Tools

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.

Chris Duggleby

Young Butcher With 'Occupational' Hand Injury
Young Butcher With ‘Occupational’ Hand Injury
Guess Who Delivers Lunch?
A young Mill worker in Columbus (Eagle and Pheonix Mill). Photo digitally enhanced by CD from 1913 original by Lewis Wickes Hine
Searching The Local Trash For 'Valuable' Left-overs.
Searching The Local Trash For ‘Valuable’ Left-overs.
Mill Workers In Macon - Prized For Their Agility (Especially When The Machines Are Moving)
Mill Workers In Macon – Prized For Their Agility (Especially When The Machines Are Moving)
Mending Clothes is a Family Business
Mending Clothes is a Family Business
Boys Working at Midnight in the Glassworks
Boys Working at Midnight in the Glass-works
You Would Never Guess How Good Little Boys are at Making Flowers
You Would Never Guess How Good Little Boys are at Making Flowers
All the pictures above are over 100 years old - this one is from modern Bangladesh
All the pictures above are over 100 years old – this one is from modern Bangladesh

If you are interested in reading my other health focused articles try the following

Torture In The Shower – Face and Body Soap Allergies – Main Suspect: Pears Transparent Soap

Poison in your Washing Machine: Allergic Contact Dermatitis from Laundry Detergents, Softeners, Conditioners and Whiteners

Is Alzheimer’s caused by the Gum Disease Bacterium P. Gingivalis – A Dementia Prevention/Treatment Breakthrough?

Toxic Chemicals in Sex Toys – 18 Vibrators, Cock Rings, Love Balls Tested – Only 3 Get All Clear

My T-shirt Made Me Sick – Textile Allergies – Sinusitis From Your Underwear

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