Pulitzer Prize winner discusses the power of story-telling through photojournalism

Sandy Ramos and Maxis Bryant

Images of young girls from around the globe were projected on the screen in Jody Richards Hall auditorium on Wednesday night. Though from different parts of the world, the girls all had something in common: they’re all married to much older men. 

Famous photographer, advocate and Pulitzer winner Stephanie Sinclair presented her 15-year project, “Too Young to Wed,” and spoke about the impact photography has on international issues.

“Too Young to Wed” depicted the emotional and physical impacts on underage girls, who were forced to wed at as young as 6 years old.

Sinclair said it was a topic related to a lot of the other issues, like acid attacks, self-immolation and genital mutilation.

Overall, her goal is to protect girls, she said.

Sinclair’s “Too Young to Wed” all the way from Western Africa to the Middle-East and the far reaches of India. She covers forced underage marriage and abuse toward women but also general human rights violations across the world.

Sinclair originally discovered the issue of child marriage after going to the war zone in Iraq where she photographed civilians and their lifestyle during the war.

Throughout her travels, Sinclair explained the difficulties in getting families to agree and trust her to take photos and the message she was sending.

“It took a lot of time to spend time with the communities for them to completely understand my intentions,” Sinclair said.

During her time in Nepal, Sinclair said she encountered one girl and her sister who were being married among many other girls. One of the girls sprinted away and refused to be married and threatened to commit suicide, causing her parents to call it off. 

Additionally, Sinclair has been doing workshops in places such as Nigeria where she shows girls how to take professional photos and gives them a platform to raise awareness on their community and culture.

“There is a lot of power in photography, there are thousands of girls that nobody knows about,” Sinclair said.  

Although there isn’t much the international community can do to stop forced underage marriage and general abuse toward women globally, Sinclair said she believes that through education, women can stand up together and defend themselves and their community.

“When a girl is in school, she has other people who will notice how she’s being treated at home,” Sinclair said. “She has other resources in people she can trust. She is part of a community of peers: When girls have friends and bond with one another, they can encourage one another to fight for their rights and learn more, particularly if some families aren’t as educated.”

WKU student Samuel Chumbley attended the presentation and was impressed by Sinclair’s positivity.

“She simply told us the story and tried to help people but never attacked or used disparaging language about the subjects she photographed,” Chumbley said.

Maxis L. Bryant can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]

Sandy Ramos can be reached at  [email protected] or 615-5961634
Sandy Ramos on Twitter @ Sandy__ramos