Maia was trafficked to Moscow at 18. “They brought me to a group of 12 men, kept me there for four days, taking turns.” Moldova 2005 © Mimi Chakarova

For seven years, investigative reporter and photographer Mimi Chakarova has carried out painstaking, often dangerous, on-the-ground reporting into all aspects of the sex trafficking trade from Eastern Europe, including investigations into the countries of origin, the process of transit, and the initial allure and stark realities trafficked women face in the receiving countries. She has slowly built trust and developed relationships with young women in Eastern Europe who have been trafficked abroad. Over the years she has traveled through Eastern Europe, Southern Europe/Mediterranean regions and the Middle East for this project. Her work has won a 2008 Emmy Nomination and a 2008 Webby Award, and has appeared on PBS Frontline/World and CBS 60 Minutes. This long-term project was also awarded the Inge Morath Magnum Photo Grant for outstanding documentary work and has been supported by the Shifting Foundation and the Gruber Family Foundation.

CIR is now seeking production funding for Mimi Chakarova to complete a feature-length documentary that reveals the underground criminal network of trafficking in Eastern Europe and the intimate stories of its victims. The effort aims to shed light into this area of great darkness, which is difficult to report and thus rarely investigated in-depth.

Access has been the most difficult aspect of this reportage. Because of the criminal elements involved, it is not only a dangerous topic on which to report, but due to the shame involved—women are rarely willing to talk about what happened to them after they have been trafficked. Chakarova’s background—a woman from Bulgaria—and her understanding of this field and long commitment to revealing it to the world make her one of the few journalists capable of the access necessary to report accurately on this trade. Through Chakarova’s first person narration and rarely documented footage, this documentary will not only raise awareness and understanding of the hidden reality of sexual slavery, but will do so with sensitivity, compassion and exquisite visual storytelling.

Chakarova’s stellar production team includes Stephen Talbot as executive producer and Stephanie Challberg as editor. View a sampling of her work in the multimedia project The Price of Sex: Women Speak, co-produced with CIR in 2009.

Chakarova will exhibit her photography and multimedia reporting at FiftyCrows Gallery in San Francisco in April. Please come support Chakarova’s work at this event and help us spread the word:

The Price of Sex :: Photo Exhibition
April 10–May 15, 2010
OPENING RECEPTION: April 15 from 4-7:30 pm
FiftyCrows Gallery—Social Change Photography
49 Geary St., Suite 225
San Francisco, CA