Photographer Pete Pattisson discusses how images were used to help abolish the trans-Atlantic slave trade and how he uses his photographs to campaign today.


A transcript of this slideshow is available below.

Who is talking?

Pete Pattisson - Photographer

Born in South Korea, educated in Japan and resident of India for many years, photographer and writer Pete Pattisson now lives in the UK. After a career teaching Citizenship in an inner-London secondary school, he chose to move into journalism. He specialises in documenting the impact of social, political and environmental change on ordinary lives.



When you hear the word ‘slavery’, you probably think of something that happened a long time ago, but at least 12 million people are still in slavery today. People have campaigned against slavery for hundreds of years, and one way they have done this is to use pictures and photos.

Campaigners against the Transatlantic Slave Trade used this image to show the British public just how evil the slave trade was. It shows how Africans were packed into slave ships on their way to a life of slavery in the Caribbean.

The image was so powerful that it helped to end the slave trade. Not only that, but campaigners today have adapted the image to campaign against a modern form of slavery; human trafficking. People who are victims of trafficking today are often brought to England in planes.

I am a photographer and I have spent years photographing the lives of people who live in slavery today. The reason I do this is because many people don’t realise that slavery still exists, and I hope that if I show them my photographs, it will motivate them to join the campaign to end slavery for ever.

A good campaigning photograph needs to grab the attention of the viewer. This might be because it is shocking, emotional or even funny.

But just taking a picture is not enough. You have to think how you will use it to get maximum attention. In the campaign against the slave trade 200 years ago, campaigners printed a book of poems, illustrated by pictures to raise awareness of slavery.

I did exactly the same thing when I published a book of my photographs of slavery today.

However, I also used lots of other ways to publicise my pictures. I put them up on my website, I made a slideshow of them and uploaded it to Youtube, I held an exhibition, gave lots of public talks and even managed to get them into the national newspapers.

So why don’t you try to use photographs to help your campaign? Get them up on your campaign website, put them into a presentation, send them to local newspapers or display them in your local community. Remember, a picture can say a thousand words!