Photographer Depicts the “Boys of Volta” Who Fish in the World’s Largest Man-Made Lake

Boys of Volta Jeremy Snell

Lake Volta stretches almost half the length of the country of Ghana. As the largest man-made lake in the world, its misty horizons are broken by the remains of trees that once grew in the region before the land was flooded. Its water provides fish as well as electricity from a dam to much of the surrounding area. But Lake Volta also has a dark side; it is the scene of extensive child labor in the fishing industry. The boys fishing on the water are able to untangle nets with their small hands and agile dives.

Photographer and cinematographer Jeremy Snell documented the children fishing on the lake in dangerous conditions, some of whom are trafficked. He traveled to the lake with the nonprofit International Justice Mission (IJM)and created the subsequent series Boys of Volta to shed light on the lives of these children through otherworldly portraits.

Snell set out to contrast the dreamlike surroundings of the lake with the children who work long hours on its waters. “For ethical reasons, I did not photograph the trafficked children,” he says of the project. “Instead, I worked with other kids who live in the area. They were willing to volunteer their time and have their parents sign releases because they support anti-trafficking work. As a result, we were able to stage scenes on the water and tell this story differently.” A collection of portraits is now available as a book, titled Boys of Volta, from Setanta Books. A portion of the profits will be donated to IJM.

Child trafficking around Lake Volta has recently been spotlighted by organizations such as IJM and in reporting by CNN. While some experts disagree on the extent of trafficking in the region, all agree with the findings of the International Labor Organization that working on the lake is dangerous and exploitive work for children. Snell's images capture both the fragility and strength of the children on the lake and the difficulties of solving the problem of child labor.

Photographer Jeremy Snell captured otherworldly images of boys fishing on Lake Volta in Ghana, the largest man-made lake in the world.

 Boys of Volta Jeremy SnellBoys of Volta Jeremy SnellBoys of Volta Jeremy Snell Child Labor Fishing

Child labor, and even child trafficking, are issues facing communities surrounding the lake.

Boys of Volta Jeremy Snell Child Labor FishingBoys of Volta Jeremy Snell Boys of Volta Jeremy Snell Child Labor Fishing Child Trafficking Boys of Volta Jeremy Snell Child Labor Fishing Child Trafficking Boys of Volta Jeremy Snell Child Labor Fishing Child Trafficking Boys of Volta Jeremy Snell Child Labor Fishing Child Trafficking Boys of Volta Jeremy Snell Child Labor Fishing Child Trafficking Boys of Volta Jeremy Snell Child Labor Fishing Child Trafficking

Jeremy Snell: Website | Instagram | Boys of Volta from Setanta Books

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Jeremy Snell.

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and reading while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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