Mark Hill | CNN's Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking


We caught up with entertainment photographer, Mark Hill, on his shoot for CNN's documentary Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking. He shares what he learned about the disturbing epidemic and behind-the-scenes images with host Jada Pinkett Smith.


CNN asked me to shoot stills, video and time-lapse photography to support the documentary Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking. The host, Jada Pinkett Smith partnered with CNN International to expose these unspeakable crimes that are hitting epidemic proportions in the United States. Since the first episode concerned trafficking in and around Atlanta, I photographed an array of local people with close ties to the sex trade industry. Some were deeply affected, such as Rachael McCool, who was trafficked as a high school student in an affluent suburb north of the city.


I also met and shot portraits of law enforcement officers fighting trafficking, such as Homeland Security agent Brock Nicholson and Dekalb County, GA Special Victims Unit officer Sgt. Torrey Kennedy. Both are deeply committed to ending sex slavery and trafficking in United States.


I also traveled to Brooklyn where Jada Pinkett Smith was preparing to interview a female pimp that brutalized young women while trafficking them to willing customers. Jada was focused and serious and the entire crew could feel the weight of the heavy subject. After the video was wrapped, I was given a small window of time to shoot a portrait of Jada that would be used to promote the show. 

I found an interesting wall in an exterior courtyard that was covered in a dormant vine. The wall reminded me of a map of the US interstate highway system that traffickers use to transport their human subjects to the parts of the country where the demand for young prostitutes is highest.

It was the middle of winter and although the sun was out, it was bitterly cold outside. Jada was intrigued by the concept and bravely took off her warm coat and endured the cold temperatures. The first frames we shot looked as if Jada was really angry because she had just wrapped a difficult interview with the pimp. I showed her a few shots and asked her to bring some compassion to the frame. As you can see, she dug deep to bring a sense of hope to a subject filled with sadness and pain.

Click on this link to learn more about the sex trafficking epidemic and to see how the portraits were used by CNN.