North Bay photographer Lisa Kristine inspires character in the movie ‘Sold’
Lisa Kristine created her own job, traveling the world to take photos of indigenous people in remote places, and eventually emerged with own job title.
Now she is invariably designated the “humanitarian photographer,” best known for documenting slavery around the world with photos of people laboring in gold mines in Ghana and brick kilns in Nepal and India.
Her work drew the attention of director Jeffrey Brown, who was making the 2014 film “Sold,” which follows the journey of a 13-year-old Nepali girl who is sold to a brothel in India. The collaboration between Brown and Kristine led to the creation of Sophia, a character based on Kristine that was played by Gillian Anderson of “X-Files” fame.
After touring the film festival circuit, “Sold” is now playing commercial movie houses that include the Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol, where it runs through Thursday, May 5.
Kristine, 50, is a San Francisco native and lived in Sonoma for four years before to moving to Mill Valley. She still maintains her Lisa Kristine Gallery on Sonoma Plaza, but her real home is the world. Just back from her latest photo trip to Nepal, she took time to talk about the film and her work.
Q: How did the movie “Sold” come about?
A. Jeffrey Brown had read the novel “Sold” by Patricia McCormick and was really moved it. He found out that I had a lot of images of modern-day slavery from the front lines and had seen my work, so he got in touch with me and came to my studio in San Rafael.
We chatted for some time over images and books and coffee and tears. He called me a couple of days later and said he wanted to write in a character inspired by my work, which is not in the book. He didn't know who would play the role at that time.
Q: Were you involved in the filming of “Sold”?
A. Yes. Jeffrey Brown consulted with me, and he took some footage from a documentary that had been made about my work, to share with actors who were being considered for the role. Once they selected Gillian Anderson, I flew to Calcutta in India and was on the film set with her, working with her.
Q: What prompted you to create your series of photos on slavery?
A. In 2009, I had asked to be the solo exhibitor at the World Peace Summit in Vancouver with the Dalai Lama and other Nobel Laureates, showing the work that I do, which is basically on remote indigenous people and diversity and unity in the world. While I was there, I was approached by one of the supporters of an organization called Free the Slaves. They're dedicated to eradicating slavery in our lifetime. That's where I learned about slavery.
Q: What did you discover about it?
A. I knew that it existed, but I assumed it was sex trafficking, on a smaller level. When I was told that there were 27 million people around the world enslaved in all kinds of forced labor at that time, I was taken aback. I felt like a freight train hit me.
I took on the slavery photo project because it was still being done, and I thought it had ended in the 1800s. And I did because I recognized that it was a dire atrocity, but nobody knew about it. I knew I could I shed a light on it, and that's how that whole project began. I couldn't sleep after that. So I flew down to Los Angeles and met with the executive director of Free the Slaves, and we came up with this project.
Q: How did you structure your photo series on slavery?
A. I did two things. I photographed people in their forced labor, but I also had brought with me this big bunch of candles. When it was safe for me and safe for them, I would make portraits of them with candles, to shine a light on slavery. That notion also was brought into the film.
Q: Will you revisit the subject of slavery?
A. That subject actually has been ongoing for me. I made a book called “Slavery” in 2010 in which Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote the forward. The sales of the book and the body of work go back to fighting slavery. And I have an exhibition called “Enslaved” that is launching on a world tour.
You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @danarts.