The UK’s National Crime Agency’s (NCA) is touring a photo exhibition to raise awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking.
The exhibition features images taken by photographers Rory Carnegie, Juliette Carton and Haitham Naser, and seeks to shine a light on the suffering of the thousands of people thought to be working in slave-like conditions for little or no pay in Britain.
Posed by models, the pictures include depictions of modern slaves working in agriculture, construction, cannabis farming and food processing.
They also show victims of child trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced prostitution.
The free exhibition, which will tour the country until the end of March, includes written commentary describing what the viewer is seeing, and information about signs which may indicate someone is a victim.
Discussing his contribution to the exhibition, Carnegie said: “Several years ago I worked on an extended project with young refugees, all without parents, helping them to take photographs and to visualise their feelings.
“When I was approached for this exhibition, it seemed like a natural extension of that work.
“What I found initially so complicated was how to visually define and illustrate certain aspects of Modern Slavery. For example, when one sees a picture of a young man or woman picking fruit or working in the fields, they will appear to the viewer exactly that, and not necessarily a victim of modern slavery.
“That image in itself does not explain the disgusting living conditions, the absence of pay and the other iniquitous and evil aspects of modern slavery. These victims might not be living in chains, but they are living amongst us.”
The NCA hopes the exhibition will raise awareness of modern slavery across the country and inform members of the public about the signs that might suggest a worker is being exploited.
UK government statistics suggest that at least 13,000 people are victims of modern slavery in Britain, but police and anti-human trafficking campaigners suspect the true figure could be much higher, on account of the fact that the crime is hugely underreported.
The exhibition is touring after three members of one of the most sophisticated human trafficking rings ever discovered in the UK were sentenced after being found guilty of forcing vulnerable young woman to work in nail bars for no pay.
Viet Nguyen and Thu Nguyen were jailed for four and five years respectively at Stafford Crown Court, while Giang Tran was handed a two-year suspended sentence.
DI Charlotte Tucker, who led an investigation into the gang for Avon and Somerset Police, commented: “The victims, who are all Vietnamese, have had traumatic childhoods and were treated by traffickers as commodities – forced to live and work in unsuitable conditions, with little or no pay, and enduring both physical and verbal abuse.
“Traffickers don’t recognise national or international boundaries and are hiding their victims in plain sight. We all need to recognise how these criminal networks operate and understand the signs potential victims can display.”