When Southwest resident Yasmin Tajik made the career switch from marine biologist at Wynn Las Vegas to a self-employed photographer, she knew she wanted to make a difference.
“I remember sitting down with my mom about a year and a half ago, and I told her I needed to do something bigger with my photography,” Tajik said. “This is exactly what I was talking about.”
Tajik and five other female photographers from across the country were selected to travel to Thailand Feb. 25 for an eight-day project with The Giving Lens, an organization that works with nonprofits to provide educational photography workshops.
“I wanted to do something to combine my love for different cultures, travel and photography,” Tajik said. “The element of working with an (international nongovernmental organization) and giving back was an added bonus.”
Partnering with the Children’s Organization of Southeast Asia, a nonprofit that works to prevent human trafficking and exploitation, the women taught photography classes and donated 26 digital cameras to women of the hill tribes who are at risk of trafficking.
“(The area is) basically just a melting pot of different ethnicities that are not recognized by the Thailand government,” Tajik said. “They’re very high risk for sex trafficking, and a lot of time, they feel like they don’t have any other alternatives.”
The workshops were aimed to empower and educate the young girls by teaching them certain skill sets needed to avoid the trafficking industry.
“Everyone in this world wants to know that they have value,” Tajik said. “With sex trafficking, there isn’t a more damaging way to take someone’s value away. It’s one of those things that you can’t imagine that humans can do to each other.
“Drugs are a huge issue everywhere, but you can sell a drug once and a girl more than once. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of the situation. ”
The Giving Lens was founded in 2010 by photographer Colby Brown and hosts about five trips a year for photographers of all skill levels, according to operating manager Kate Siobhan Havercroft. The organization plans to visit Jordan, Peru, Nicaragua and Tanzania this year.
“With (COSA), we (ran) workshops … to instill messages like self-worth, vision, personal creativity, telling a story, having a voice, self-confidence and overall empowerment,” Siobhan Havercroft said. “Photography has that power. It can say to a child, ‘You see the world differently. You have a special voice, your own story, and it’s worth hearing.’ ”
Tajik learned of The Giving Lens and its projects last year through another photographer. When the Thailand project was announced, she said she felt an instant connection. With her parents from north Pakistan, an area known for its involvement with the Taliban, Tajik said she considers herself lucky to have been born in the United States.
“I could have been back in a very similar situation (as the women in Thailand), just in a different country,” Tajik said, “not necessarily in the sex trafficking industry but being suppressed and not having options or an education and being in a male-dominated society.”
Tajik has traveled the world extensively, visiting countries such as Switzerland, Turkey, Singapore and Kenya. She said she photographs mainly portraits, weddings, models and landscapes.
“For me, categorizing people as a human race rather than separating them based on geography, religion, culture, race, things like that, has made me more aware and accepting,” Tajik said. “I try to use my photography in that same way, to open people’s eyes and show them that there’s beauty in other cultures.”
For more information on Tajik, visit shalimarstudios.com. For more information on The Giving Lens, visit thegivinglens.com.
Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0403.