While on assignment for Glamour’s “Women of the Year” portfolio, photographer Norman Jean Roy was introduced to Somaly Mam, a former Cambodian sex slave who was being honored for her work rescuing women trapped in the sex industry and reintegrating them into society. Overwhelmed by her story and haunted by the faces of the women she’d worked with, Roy decided to spearhead Traffik, a project that would expose and elevate the grave reality and gross injustice of their experiences.
In January 2008, Roy returned to Cambodia to begin the emotionally taxing work of photographing the victims of the country’s notorious sex trade. With the help of Mam and her organization AFESIP, Roy was given access to brothels, where he observed and documented the harrowing lives of adolescent and child prostitutes in situ, as well as AFESIP rehabilitation centers, where he interacted with those whose lives had finally taken a turn for the better, thanks to Mam’s tireless work. Captured in the book are the powerful stories of young women like Srey Ny, who was beaten and raped by her family and sold to a brothel where she was tortured and starved, and Sok Muteta, who was sold by her mother for 10 U.S. dollars and was first raped at the age of four. Both girls were rescued and are now in AFESIP’s care.
Traffik presents images of an industry that doesn’t just sell sex; young women and children are routinely bartered, exchanged, and sold across international borders, resulting in a soulless flow of human traffic. Part exposé and part call to action, Roy’s intimate and affecting photographs are aimed toward giving these victims a voice that will resonate across Cambodia’s borders.