Tanner Stewart, a photographer from Seattle, Washington, was traveling through Bulgaria two years ago when he spotted the subject of his next photo. He saw a man holding a baby, and Tanner found the scene so beautiful that he told the man so, and asked if he could take a picture. What the man said to him altered the course of his life.
His translator heard the man out, then pulled Tanner aside.
“I said, ‘What’s wrong?'” Tanner recalled.
His translator told him, “The man just said you can buy his baby for $50.”
“To experience human trafficking on a firsthand level,” says Tanner Stewart in a 2 1/2 minute video, “that it’s not just a statistic, that now it’s actually the face of this baby. It’s completely shifted my passion and desire to help this cause.”
Stewart had an idea, to use what he does best — taking beautiful pictures — to raise fund and awareness to help the fight against human trafficking. He started a campaign on Indiegogo to raise money for a book, Shoot The Skies, which would be comprised of photos taken over a 365-day period, one taken on each day of 2013.
The project was a journey for Tanner Stewart, in a literal sense. The project took him out his home and across the country, producing photos like this:
“I spent a few months working my way around Seattle and the Northwest,” Tanner wrote on his Indiegogo page. “But there was so much more to capture. In May I moved out of my apartment and took to the road in my 1987 Oldsmobile. Some of the highlights that you’ll see in the book are from the 20 national parks and 5 countries that I visited over the following 7 months.”
He continued, “Giving up the comforts of home was a sacrifice, but the adventure I had in return was worth it all. I saw some of the most beautiful views that this planet has to offer. It is scenery that stands in sharp contrast to the darkness of the trafficking that I hope to expose.”
In the end, Tanner raised more than $78,000 for Shoot The Skies, and the book is now published and available. All of the proceeds from sales will go to the A21 Campaign, a nonprofit group dedicated to stopping the buying and selling of human beings around the world.
According to stats on the A21 Campaign site, there are 27 million slaves in the world today — in 2014 — more than at any other point in the history of the world. “Men, women, and children are being exploited for manual and sexual labor against their will,” the site says, noting that the average age of a human trafficking victim is 12 years old.
To learn more about Tanner Stewart, the fight against human trafficking, and Shoot The Skies, watch the video below, and visit ShootTheSkies.com.