A poster for my friend Amanda Newton’s documentary, Stella’s Story. Despite its small size and poverty, Moldova has the highest rate of human trafficking in Europe. Orphans are a particularly vulnerable demographic; on turning sixteen, they are kicked out of the orphanage with only a bus ticket and roughly $30, and are preyed upon by traffickers who exploit their naïvety through coercion and manipulation. Young women often end up in the sex industry.
In 2011, Amanda had the chance to travel to Moldova and live at Stella’s House, a safe haven for young women, many of whom are orphans and some of whom were rescued from trafficking situations, to live in community with other women and obtain an education free of charge. This film tells their stories, ones that are simultaneously heartbreaking and hopeful.
When I began the project, I found out Amanda had taken portraits of 32 of the women in the program. Though very dark, the portraits were beautiful and compelling, and I knew their faces were enough to convey the courage, love, and hope that imbues their community. Many hours of photo editing produced this solution.