Sometimes they are sold for about 30 Euros by their extremely poor families. Sold to people who exploit them as housekeepers or for other kinds of labor. It is a modern form of slavery across country borders and still a part of the sad reality in the lives of thousands of children in West Africa. But there are institutions that fight against this kind of child trafficking. They are a kind of back door to escape slavery. 

Spanish photographer Ana Palacios therefore called her photo series about rescue centers for slave children, like the one in Cotonou, Benin, “The Back Door”. At the center, children who have managed to flee or were no longer of use to their “owners” are taken care of by psychologists and teachers. There they try to identify the children they have taken in and to find their natural parents. Sometimes there are even girls and boys from Togo and Ghana. And even though these rescue centers are meagerly equipped, they provide for something essential: Security.

Curriculum Vitae: Ana Palacios (Freelance Photographer)

Portrait: Ana Palacios

© Ana Palacios

STATEMENT - Since 2010 she divides her time between international film production and documentary photography, shining a light on post-conflict recovery and peacebulding projects. 

ACADEMIC BACKGROUND - She graduated in Journalism in University of Navarre (Pamplona, Spain), followed by film and photography studies in University of California in Los Angeles (U.S.A.), where she lived for several years. 

PROFFESIONAL BACKGROUND - She worked as a journalist for the newsroom at Antena 3 Televisión, she has run communications departments, and for more than fifteen years she has been working as a film production coordinator, particularly on international co-productions. She has worked with directors such as Ridley Scott, Milos Forman, Tony Kaye, Michael Radford, Jim Jarmusch and Roman Polanski. 

PUBLICATIONS – Her work on cooperation in development has been published worldwide in media such as 6 Mois, Stern, Al Jazeera, Stern, New Internationalist, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, Terra Mater, Days Japan, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Papel, XL Semanal, El País, Tiempo, etc. 

AWARDS – She has received international awards such as the IPA International Photography Awards (IPA). Book People Category. Silver Medal; the UNICEF Germany Photo of the Year Award. Honorable Mention. 2017; the Moscow International Foto Awards (MIFA). Photo Essay Category. Gold medal; the Visa de l’ANI 2016. French Picture Editors Association (ANI). Silver medal; the PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris. Press People Category. Gold medal; the Fine Art Photography Awards (FAPA). People Category. Silver medal; the Neutral Density Awards (ND). Photo Essay / Story Category. Silver medal. 

BOOKS - She has published three books: Albino: about the pledge of the albinos in Tanzania, Art in Movement: about the art as a social change in Uganda and Slave children: The back door that describes the rescue and reinsertion process of trafficked children in West Africa. 

EXHIBITIONS - Her work has been exhibited in different art centers around the world such as the French Alliance in Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania), Les Temps Libres Rennes (France), Hotel Mandarin (Kuala Lumpur), ACCI Gallery, Berkeley (USA), Carnegy Hall, New York (USA), Palau Robert, Barcelona (Spain), Paraty em Foco (Brasil). 

She currently lives in Madrid. More info:


More information on the competition and the UNICEF Photo of the Year 2018 reportages.

Read more


Renowned photographers from all over the world take part in the contest. An independent jury decides upon the winner.

Learn more