Child Labor Through David Parker’s Lens

Approximately 218 million children around the world between the ages of five and 17 are involved in child labor, according to The International Labour Organization. Their jobs range from textile work to gold mining and sex work to rag picking. Often their working conditions endanger their health and general wellbeing. I met with David Parker, a photographer and doctor who has worked to bring awareness to this issue for over 16 years. His work is proof that one person’s efforts can help alleviate our world’s problems.

Parker explains, “[I have] always been oriented in a direction of basic human rights, and liberties, and issues of social justice. … What gives me that orientation? … Growing up Jewish during WWII.” When he learned about the conditions that many child laborers face, Parker recognized this injustice as a human rights and a health issue and became passionate about addressing it. He has taken a unique approach to raising awareness about child labor by combining his strengths and interests. Beginning what he believed to be a one-time photography project, he went to Mexico to take his first pictures of children at work. He then realized the power of his photographs’ impact on others and chose to continue the project by visiting numerous countries, taking his camera along to each location. His small project has evolved into years of photographing and raising awareness of child labor. “Stolen Dreams” and “Before Their Time” are two resulting compilations of his work.

Child labor is an issue that stems from multiple factors including “economics, education, public health, social values and law,” Dr. Parker explains. In recent collaboration with his colleagues, he hopes to create a new model to understand such causes. “Typically people want to understand [child labor] in terms of economic development, but they forget that social welfare is very much related to education and economic development very much related to public health.”

Looking at Dr. Parkers’ photography I can see how his interests in public health connect with his photography to create images that inform viewers on a number of levels. “A good number of photographs that I take reflect some kind of hazard, although sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes it’s not. … For example, someone who is looking at a picture may say ‘that’s a dusty environment’ but to me it might be as much about the dust as it is about Silicosis.” Children who work face numerous health issues. Depending on the labor they, undertake health problems include arthritis, skin diseases, brain damage and permanent disabilities.

Dr. Parker continues to photograph child labor in an effort to inspire others to incorporate more forms of media into the public health sector. He explains there is “a lapse in the public health system of US to incorporate media into their work.” Through images, Parker wants to decrease the reliance on statistics as the only method to raise awareness of child labor. He explains, “[There is a] failure in public health and that failure is that we think statistical values are more important that they ought to be. That’s not to put down statistical analysis. That’s to say that nobody gets engaged because they saw a p-value of less than .001. Since when did a p-value help anyone quit smoking?” Armed with his camera and a desire to raise consciousness about child labor, Parker continues to travel and photograph the work of children around the world.

visit: www.childlaborphotographs.com


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  2. Nice post - child labor pictures ..Keep Posting

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