In Plain Sight Documentary project w/ Jon Lowenstein
Corner of Cowboy Way and Cowgirl Way, Archival inkjet print on blue steel, 2013
By car, Michael Genovese and photographer/film-maker Jon Lowenstein travelled the U.S. conducting interviews with survivors of forced labor to bring awareness to the extreme cases of victimization, which were happening in plain sight. A remarkable group of people, who endured varied levels of deception and abuse, shared their stories of debt bondage, human trafficking, child labor, and prostitution. From Washington D.C., down the East Coast, into Central Florida to New Orleans and Dallas, they worked with safe houses, labor rights organizations, and individuals, to better understand their unfortunate circumstance. Genovese and Lowenstein traced these intimate stories through photography and video, experiencing the psychic residue left behind in small towns, truck stops, trailer parks, and hotels where these incidents took place, and continue to occur.
The project resulted in an exhibition in Chicago at Art Works Projects that included the documentation by Genovese and Lowenstein, and presented Nina Berman's photographs from her on-going investigation about the subject. Exhibition programming included a roundtable discussion with other artists, advertising creatives, non-profit service providers, and law-enforcement officers, outlining a public engagement campaign aiming to raise awareness and funds to benefit human trafficking survivors.
In Plain Sight is an exhibition and public presentation of investigative projects about human trafficking and forced labor in the USA with work by Nina Berman, Michael Genovese, and Jon Lowenstein. Human trafficking, sexual slavery and forced labor, once thought of as international crimes, are now recognized as serious domestic issues, with thousands of cases reported each year across the USA. As a Midwestern transportation hub, Chicago is a focal point for criminals looking to profit off of slave labor. This ease of access, in combination with large vulnerable populations of undocumented immigrants and impoverished, at risk youth, has made human trafficking and forced labor a pressing local problem.
Despite engaged and progressive law enforcement at the local, county and federal level, Chicago still lacks necessary resources to provide immediate care for those fleeing brutal, violent forms of bondage. Only one safe house exists to serve the entire city.