Street of Little Flowers is a photograph by Mikel Flamm. Its three main subjects are young Vietnamese girls facing the streets of brothel community, Svay Pak. These were the sites of the neighborhood just outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia before numerous raids nearly extinguishing the infamous child prostitution epicenter. Although much of its brothels are gone, an underground type of child sex tourism at this location still prevails.
Throughout its existence, Svay Pak’s brothels have been governed by ethnic Vietnamese owners who’ve primarily selected their Vietnamese brethren as their exploited.
Sadly, some women actually agree to work in the sex industry but many of the prostitutes were conned into the trade, believing they’d applied to legitimate overseas jobs, but in turn facing forced sex labor and debt bondage in Svay Pak.
Children end up with a similar fate, exchanging sex for their room, board and other living expenses. Children however are kidnapped or sold by their families to escape from poverty. Eventually some do not return home due to shame or having no documentation when outside their homes’ borders.
Despite claims that child prostitution no longer exist in Svay Pak, children make up most of the population of sex workers in this neighborhood.
As sickening as the subject is, photojournalism has further exploited Svay Pak’s children. Their faces are pictured in the community despite the children’s lack of understanding of what their pictures represent.
Forget if the photo’s subject is beautiful- undeniably it is not. But the image is real and the photographer creates enough anonymity to respect the privacy of the young girls. Their figures are black shadows, looking reluctantly at their fate. Behind them there is nothing to protect them, but darkness.
Limited Edition Prints available on Saatchiart for $1010: Street of Little Flowers by Mikel Flamm.