When they were 14, 15, 16 years old, they were brutally raped by soldiers in Myanmar. They survived and fled their burnt villages, bleeding and naked, with the terrible images of their slaughtered relatives in their heads. Now they live in refugee camps in Bangladesh, while the children fathered by murderers grow inside them. 

US-born photographer Brian Sokol photographed some of the expectant mothers and listened to their horrible stories. Sokol’s portraits are very cautious, and this is intentional; he doesn’t disclose the girls’ real names and their veils symbolize these victims’ fragile existences, their trauma, their shame and their fear of being cast out. However, he contradicts media reports that most of the girls were thinking about having an abortion. On the contrary, he says. For many of these girls and young women who have lost their entire families, the babies growing inside them provide them with the hope to escape this hell with a new life.

Curriculum Vitae: Brian Sokol (for UNICEF)

Portrait: Brian Sokol

© 2017 Tom Van Houtryve

Brian Sokol is a US-born photographer, author and speaker dedicated to documenting human rights issues and humanitarian crises worldwide.
A recipient of National Geographic Magazine's Eddie Adams Grant, he has been selected as one of PDN´s 30 Emerging Photographers To Watch.

Since 2012 he has focused on telling the stories of refugees, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and stateless people in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. The Most Important Thing—his ongoing, long-term portraiture project—seeks to humanize and convey the dignity of individuals who have been dehumanized by conflict, government policies and the media. His goal is to engender empathy and action in audiences across the lines of language, race, religion and culture.

A former Himalayan guide and wilderness ranger, Brian is happiest when at extreme altitude or latitude; he initially came to photography through a passion for high, remote places. He frequently works on various themes related to displacement, perhaps owing to the fact that he’s lived abroad for 20 years and feels himself more a citizen of the world than of any particular country.

His work appears in publications including TIME, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He has exhibited on 5 continents and in both the New York and Geneva headquarters of the United Nations. The Most Important Thing has been adapted into performance art featuring Hollywood celebrities and projected at the Cannes Film Festival.

He has spoken on BBC, NBC, at TEDx San Diego, the the Newseum in Washington D.C. and the Annenberg Space for Photography in L.A. His photographs are included in multiple collections in North America, Europe and Asia.

He works with corporate and advertising clients such as Ogilvy & Mather, Philips and the World Bank Group. Humanitarian clients and include UNICEF, UNHCR, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the Ikea Foundation.
He is represented by Panos Pictures and is a Sony Global Imaging Ambassador.


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