Meet Abby, Lily and Benjamin. They pose next to dolls or in front of pink wallpapers. They are six, seven or eight years old – and they are holding a gun. They write that they are afraid of bears, sharks and dinosaurs. But that’s probably not the reason why their parents gave them their first gun with live ammunition: America’s deadly obsession with guns is as strong as ever.

In 2013, for example, a five-year-old boy in Kentucky shot dead his two-year-old sister with the gun he was given as a present. It is not the only accident of this kind in the land of the ‘National Rifle Association’, although it might be the most shocking one. The .22-calibre guns for kids come in candy colors, are lightweight and adapted to the anatomy of a child.

Click on a picture to enlarge.

Photographer An-Sofie Kesteleyn was born in Oudenaarde, Belgium. One month after she read about the fatal accident in Kentucky, she traveled to the American heartland. There she took pictures in families who are convinced that the earlier their kids get used to weapons, the better.

In states such as Alabama, Louisiana and Texas, however, only few of the people she asked for permission to take pictures granted their consent. The rest of them didn’t because they were afraid that the photographer could be used by those who demand stricter gun control laws.

Curriculum Vitae: An-Sofie Kesteleyn (Freelancer)

UNICEF Photo of the Year An-Sofie Kesteleyn

An-Sofie Kesteleyn was born in Oudenaarde, Belgium, and took up photography when she was 18. In 2011 she gained a master’s degree in photography from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent (KASK).

Immediately after that, An-Sofie moved to Amsterdam and started working as a freelance photographer for the Dutch daily De Volkskrant.

She also works on independent photo-essays, focusing mainly on people and the ways they live. In 2011, she was a finalist for the Magnum Expression Award. In 2013, she was one of the participants of the Joop Swart Masterclass of World Press Photo.


More information on the competition and the UNICEF-Photo of the Year 2014 reportages.

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More information on the competition and the winners of the previous years.

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