The Digital Journalist
Misty Keasler Orphanage

I started making pictures with a Polaroid that I got on my seventh birthday. I come from a theater background, and what I loved about photography was the idea that, like theater, I could walk into and experience different and fantastic lives, only these were real, not stage, lives.

This project results from work I did in Russia with Buckner Orphan Care International. I left for Russia expecting to come home with images of orphanages as desolate, lonely places filled with hopelessness. Once there, I was struck by the quiet strength in the children, and the lonely images I had wanted to take suddenly seemed irrelevant.

I woke up one snowy morning in my hotel room and had a long cathartic cry. I was shooting innocent victims abandoned on doorsteps or to the Russian state. I felt that photographing them as victims would be exploitative and as horrible as the act of abandonment that had placed them in the orphanages. I wanted to shoot the children and their environments in a way that dignified them and gave them something back. I began shooting portraits in deep vibrant colors, and the children loved making the images. When you have a moment of human contact while making a picture, it is more intimate than touch or conversation. I really hated leaving them.