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In Calcutta, there are over 10,000 women and girls who live and work as prostitutes. In 1997, New York-based photographer Zana Briski moved to Calcutta to live with these women and document their lives through photography.

While living in the brothels, she developed relationships with their children and after recognizing their fascination with the camera, began to teach them basic photography.

Inspired by this unlikely community, she conducted weekly workshops from 2000 to 2003, teaching the children basics in photography. The goal of the project was to cultivate an environment in which each child could learn, discover their own creativity, and realize their own self-worth. Zana observed the children's work and was motivated by their vibrant self portraits, family pictures, and street scenes that offered stunning tableaus of life in the red-light district.

Determined to share their story, Zana and filmmaker Ross Kauffman began to document the children and their day-to-day lives. The product of this collaboration is the documentary Born into Brothels; an intimate portrait of the lives of the children and their mothers, struggling to survive in the urban brothels while discovering opportunity through the lens of a camera. Recipient of over 25 major awards, including the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Born into Brothels introduced viewers to the resilient young photographers. The film proved to the world that art and free expression can transform lives despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Kids with Cameras, was founded in 2002 to raise money and awareness for the children through print sales, exhibitions, film festivals and a book of their work. The children's images have been exhibited in Calcutta, Europe and all over the U.S. A book of their photos was published in 2004. An educational curriculum based on the film has also been created to reach out to students and teachers across the U.S. and around the world.

Kids with Cameras has supported the education of several children from the original photography workshop. One of the children completed his secondary schooling in Utah and is now studying film at NYU Tisch School for the Arts. Another arrived in the USA one year ago to finish her secondary schooling and expects to graduate from a private boarding school in 2011. Many of the other children are excelling in private schools in India.

Because Kids with Cameras believes that education provides a way for children to leave the red-light district, we are currently raising funds to develop Hope House, a safe haven specifically for the children of prostitutes to provide an opportunity for them to learn, thrive and lead future generations.

Led by Ross Kauffman and the Chairwoman of the Board Kids with Cameras, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Hope House is the legacy project of Kids with Cameras.

» Update on the Kids of Calcutta