Fine Art Photography Daily

CENTER Blue Earth Fiscal Sponsorship: Matilde Simas – Woman Rising, Surviving Human Trafficking


©Matilde Simas, Cary Stuart with 14 month old son, Jay, say good-bye to his father before going to daycare, Biddeford, Maine, from Woman Rising: Surviving Human Trafficking


Congratulations to Matilde Simas for being selected for Blue Earth Fiscal Sponsorship Award recognizing her project, Woman Rising: Surviving Human Trafficking. CENTER is pleased to add the Blue Earth Fiscal Sponsorship to their services for photographers and filmmakers. CENTER sponsors documentary projects that educate the public about critical environmental and social issues and is primarily interested in work that is educational in nature. They considered proposals of any geographic scope involving the photographic and motion picture mediums. As a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status, CENTER is eligible to receive grants and tax-deductible contributions from private foundations, individuals, or other entities. This Fiscal Sponsorship does not include direct project funding or grants.

The Award includes a 1-Year Sponsorship, Professional Development Seminars, a Review Santa Fe Admission and Project Presentation, a Project Publication with Lenscratch and Inclusion in the CENTER Image Library & Archive.

The selection committee were Blue Earth Council Members, Staff & Board Members from CENTER & Blue Earth Alliance Teams.


©Matilde Simas, Human trafficking survivor, Cary Stuart sings to her 4-week old son in her living room, Biddeford, Maine, from Woman Rising: Surviving Human Trafficking

Matilde Simas is a visual journalist based in Boston. She graduated from Suffolk University with a BS in Psychology and Women’s Study and attended Rhode Island School of Design to study digital photography. Matilde’s work as a photographer, guided by her primary role of humanitarian, has taken her around the globe. Her work’s primary focus is human rights, with the goal being to leverage storytelling to inform, provoke discussion, and ultimately inspire action. She achieves this through public speaking and exhibiting her work in galleries and public spaces.


Matilde Simas portrait

Portrait of Matilde Simas

Woman Rising: Surviving Human Trafficking

At the core of this work resides the belief that visual storytelling has the power to change the world. Woman Rising: Surviving Human Trafficking is a multimedia and civic engagement project that strives to educate communities on the atrocity of human trafficking and encourage them to support survivors as they heal and rebuild their lives.

“I want to know who I am and live free.”

When reading the above quote, it sounds more like a human right than a life goal, but for Cary Stuart, survivor of sex and human trafficking, it is just that. Living free is something that presented as a distant dream for her not too long ago, but it is one she achieved and now uses to advocate for the freedom of victims such as herself.

The last five years have seen a staggering rise in the number of people trapped in modern slavery throughout the world. Woman Rising gives this monstrous institution a face through Cary’s brave representation of what it means to be a victim and a survivor. Personalizing human trafficking in this way can influence and educate people in a way that mere data or academic discussion simply cannot. Cary’s vulnerability and bravery, which is so eloquently captured through the visuals of both this film and the accompanying photography will evoke a visceral response in viewers. The time for increased awareness, heightened response, and activism to end the crime that is human trafficking is now, and Woman Rising seeks to spur that activism on.

It is a pervasive and powerful stigma that attaches itself to victims of human trafficking for the purpose of being sold for sex – prostitute, whore – but it could not be further from the brutal truth that enshrouds them. Much of society, including a large portion of law enforcement, look at these people as willing participants, people who actively chose and continue choosing this lifestyle while having access to all the freedoms you and I enjoy and take completely for granted. The truth is, twenty-three-year-old Cary had plans to go to college while she stood outside one evening, plans to live her life and achieve her dreams. When a man named Ramie pulled up in an impressive vehicle and offered to fast track her modeling career, to take her to New York immediately and give her access to a vast world awaiting her, she jumped on the seeming opportunity.

As chronicled in this film, it was while Cary was incarcerated under charges of prostitution that she and Portland Coalition Against Sex Trafficking Co-Founder, Sgt. Farris first crossed paths. Her willingness to open up to him and share the horrifying details of her captivity as a victim of sex and human trafficking, helped the Portland Police Department see her for what she and others like her are in actuality – victims and survivors. – Matilde Simas


©Matilde Simas, When finances are tight Cary Stuart relies on not for profit supports to help her and her family. Pictured, Cary looks through clothing and shoes with her 3- year old son, Tristin at not for profit organization named Just Love Worldwide, Portland, Maine.


©Matilde Simas, Human trafficking survivor, Cary Stuart reveals a feather tattoo on your left wrist, she says, it’s a tattoo that covers up another tattoo her trafficker forced her to have with his name. In many instances in US, the trafficker will tattoo his name (or nickname) on the trafficking victims, signaling that they are property.


©Matilde Simas, Cary Stuart, during a drug relapse in her home in Biddeford, ME.


©Matilde Simas, During a drug relapse, Cary Stuart in her home in Biddeford, ME. “Once an addict always an addict. I’ll always struggle with my addiction. I must take it one day at a time. I just feel like a part of me has died.”


©Matilde Simas, Cary Stuart and Co-founder of the Greater Portland coalition Against Sex Trafficking and Exploitation Sgt. Tim Farris embrace after 7 years.


©Matilde Simas, Cary Stuart and Co-founder of the Greater Portland coalition Against Sex Trafficking and Exploitation Sgt. Tim Farris stand outside Cary’s home in Portland, ME.


©Matilde Simas, Human Trafficking Subject Matter Expert, Cary Stuart shares her story in a human trafficking prevention workshop at the Salvation Army Tools for Life Program.


©Matilde Simas, In her home in Biddeford, ME Cary Stuart plays in the bathroom mirror with her son .


Founded in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1994, the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization CENTER supports socially and environmentally engaged lens-based projects through education, public platforms, funding, and partnerships.

Image-making holds a unique power to confront audiences with uncomfortable truths, advance cultural understandings, and promote social justice. Through our advancement of artists and their work, CENTER serves to deepen public understanding of lens-based media’s complex history and ongoing cultural significance. By establishing trans-disciplinary partnerships between artists and justice-driven communities, historians, cultural critics, students, and the art world, they honor our unique role in advancing projects that respect all people, open minds, and engage our shared humanity.

Characterized by a community of gifted and committed photographers, CENTER has proven for the last 29 years that it can help photographers and lens-based artists grow into their full potential. CENTER programs foster insights and actualizations that ripple and impact all involved by providing platforms where the creative impulse can be engaged and challenged.

ANNUAL PROGRAMS | Includes the Project Launch Grant, Project Development GrantMe&Eve Grant, the three CENTER Awards: Personal, Social and Environmental, the Excellence in Multimedia Storytelling AwardSanta Fe Fellowship, Callanan Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Review Santa Fe Photo Symposium. Public exhibitions, educational presentations, and expositions of the work are held in conjunction with the awards, grants, and Review Santa Fe. These programs are open for submission to international and national photographers and lens-based artists during our annual Calls for Entry.

Follow CENTER on Instagram: @centersantafe

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