After Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the wildly popular Humans of New York photo blog, traveled to Pakistan this summer, it wasn’t all that surprising that he would document incredible stories of people going about their everyday lives -- but the reaction of his massive following to those stories certainly has been.
A series of Stanton’s photographs from his travels this month in Pakistan featured the story of Syeda Ghulam Fatima, an activist in Lahore who is working with her husband to end bonded labor, a practice identified by the U.N. as one of the most common forms of modern-day "slavery," in the South Asian nation.
Through her work with the Bonded Labor Liberation Front NGO, Fatima is attempting to connect bonded workers toiling through exploitative conditions in the country’s brick kilns with the legal assistance, education and rehabilitation they need to escape. Fatima was also featured in a mini-documentary by VICE earlier this year.
The obstacles are major -- according to Stanton, at least one million men, women and children nationwide are facing a lifetime of growing debt and hard labor in the kilns, the wealthy kiln owners are so influential that police and officials protect them and Fatima has been threatened, beaten, electrocuted and even shot because of her work.
But fans of Humans of New York have stepped up to help her quest against bonded labor. As of Tuesday, they’ve donated more than $2 million over the course of just three days to an Indiegogo campaign Stanton launched to support Fatima’s work.
Fans of the photoblog also came to the assistance of an ill Lahore mother who had left an abusive relationship but was struggling to find housing and medical treatment, according to Stanton. She has since been relocated and a local resident has stepped up to help connect her with the assistance she needs.
These photos have shown a side of Pakistan that doesn’t often receive coverage from international media, which tend to focus on the nation’s struggles with violence.
While the violence is a serious issue, there’s more to the story.
Other photos show a medical student discussing his studies, a young boy chatting about swimming in Hunza Valley, 20-somethings being "set up" to date by their friends and a pair of youngsters modeling beautiful, colorful fashions in a public square in Lahore.
These are the parts of Pakistani life that don’t typically make the headlines.