Lisa Kristine, Humanitarian Photographer
Lisa Kristine is an internationally recognized fine-art photographer, humanitarian, activist, and speaker. For more than 30 years she has documented indigenous cultures and social causes in more than 150 countries across six continents, meeting people at the level of the heart. Lisa’s work has been shown in exhibitions and purchased for permanent collections in museums throughout the United States and abroad.
The current that runs through her work is the belief in the inherent dignity of every living being. Lisa masterfully navigates the emotional landscapes of her subjects and their environments, driving awareness around causes such as human trafficking, indigenous wisdom, and global unity.
Lisa’s unique blend of still-documentary journalism and fine art in action has garnered widespread acclaim in the world of photography and the international humanitarian stage. She is the recipient of a Lucie Humanitarian Award, presented at Carnegie Hall, honoring the greatest achievements of master photographers. The Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Queen Mother of Bhutan and Amnesty International, among others, have all endorsed her work. David Clarke, former Head of Photography for the Tate Modern, describes Lisa’s arresting images of modern slavery as “a testament to truth and an insightful and inspiring body of evidence which should never and can never be denied.”
“I believe that a sound work of art should be captivating each time it is viewed,” she says. “A viewer from any place or walk of life can be in direct relationship with the subject within it, and be emotionally and viscerally moved.” Lisa oversees every detail of the reproduction process, resulting in a magnificent display of color with the precise hue, value, and intensity of each fine art print.
As a child, Lisa poured over her mother’s anthropology books and National Geographic magazines and marveled at the seemingly ancient people living so close to their environment that their mud and feather-covered bodies resembled the earth itself. From her child-like perspective, “They seemed like pillars of the earth, unshakable and empowered,” she said. “I remember thinking these people must be grounded somehow, must know things I needed to know to survive in the world. I resolved that as soon as I could, I would go find them and ask.”
During her travels, Lisa has been a witness to both overwhelming beauty and unimaginable suffering, delving into the heart of what makes us human. At first, hers was a pursuit of beauty, serenity, and presence. Documenting, amongst the vastness of the landscape, the people who resided there, and the paradoxical fragility and resilience of indigenous cultures that are rapidly disappearing. This body of work resulted in four volumes of photography: A Human Thread, This Moment, and One Breath and Intimate Expanse.
Over time, her art also became a form of activism: The conviction that somehow by sharing the stories of the people she documented, their lives and their culture would not be forgotten — and more importantly, they would serve to inspire a renewed interest in how relevant their lives and traditions are for the modern world.
Witness to Modern Slavery
In 2009, Lisa was the sole exhibitor at the Vancouver Peace Summit, attended by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other award-winning Nobel Laureates. While there, she met a supporter of Free the Slaves, an organization dedicated to eradicating slavery.
“When I learned about the scope of the modern slave trade it truly shook me,” she recalls. “I thought: If I don’t know about this … how many others don’t?” This question began an ongoing journey documenting on the front lines of slavery around the world, from the sweltering brick kilns in Asia to deep inside illegal gold mines in Africa.
This breathtaking collection of images can be found in two volumes: Slavery, with a foreword by the Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Bound to Freedom, featuring a declaration by Pope Francis. “Lisa’s photographs of human slavery underscore the beauty and dignity of each person,” writes Helen Garrett, Senior Consultant at Amnesty International. “Unflinching and riveting, they sear into your memory and demand that you pay attention to the issues.”
Lisa is a tireless champion of humanity in all its forms, from the troublesome to the sublime, and her signature good humor and grounded personality buoy the spirit even in the challenging circumstances in which she sometimes finds herself.
As a speaker and activist, Lisa has increasingly moved out from behind the camera, using her voice to amplify the stories of the people she documents and the causes she champions. Her riveting TED talk, Photos That Bear Witness to Modern Slavery, has been viewed nearly 3 million times.
Lisa regularly delivers keynotes and appears on panels at conferences, universities, museums, and corporations around the world, including the Vatican, Wisdom 2.0, Thomson Reuters, and Trust London.
CNN, National Geographic, The Atlantic, Reuters, The Daily Mail, Forbes, and numerous other publications and media outlets have profiled Lisa’s work. Sir Richard Branson says of her photography: “Lisa’s images take us behind the veil to the atrocities of slavery. To respect human dignity for those from every walk of life, business leaders must embrace our unique role in upholding the precepts of equality, belonging and purpose.”
Lisa is the subject of four documentaries, and her work on slavery is featured in three films. SOLD, made by Oscar award-winning team Emma Thompson and Jeffrey Brown, includes a character inspired by Lisa and played by Gillian Anderson.
Lisa is a supporting partner in the United Nations’ International Labour Organization’s 50 For Freedom Campaign, whose goal is to eradicate modern slavery. Her photographs inspired the Make a Stand Lemonade movement, which to date has reached more than 100 million people and has raised over one million dollars toward the eradication of slavery.
The success of Lisa ’s fine art prints and books, both fuel her ability to work on cause-oriented projects, and also contribute proceeds toward organizations to further support in the causes she is involved.
In 2017, Lisa founded a Human Thread Foundation, an international nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote human dignity and drive prevention, education, and awareness around causes such as human trafficking, the refugee crisis, and global unity through interactive exhibitions, educational programming, and multi-media campaigns. Among the foundation’s ongoing exhibits is Bound to Freedom, a visual story of modern-day slavery, and the Pillar of Spirit, which explores the living history of Bhutan in the face of modernity swiftly impacting its borders.
Just as she hopes these bodies of work will inspire awareness and change, she continues to seek out projects in which her images can have a positive impact in the world.
“I want the people who experience my work to have the opportunity to gaze into the eyes of the other and find there a familiarity,” says Lisa. “I want to welcome them into the exploration of our mysterious lives with a spirit of curiosity, astonishment, and hope.” Her work is a gateway to compassion and wonder, a testament to the power of the human spirit.