Zana Briski (British, b. 1966) is an Academy Award-winning director and artist. Her documentary film Born into Brothels is the result of ten years of living, photographing, and filming in the brothels of Calcutta where she taught photography to the children of sex workers. The film was the 2005 recipient of Best Documentary Feature at the 77th Academy Awards, as well as numerous other awards. In 2000, Briski founded Kids with Cameras, a nonprofit organization that taught photography to marginalized children around the world. A book of the children’s photographs, Kids with Cameras, was published in 2005. 


In her more recent work, Briski turns her attention to the natural world. On moonless nights she hikes wooded trails in upstate New York. In the darkness she unrolls large sheets of light-sensitive photographic paper and waits patiently for nocturnal animals to walk in front of it. From tiny newts to large black bears, Briski records their shadows onto the paper by firing a electronic flash. The flash cuts so quickly into the pitch-darkness that the animals hardly notice. Later, Briski develops the paper in the darkroom, toning it with pure gold. The resulting images are one-of-a-kind, life-size photograms that Briski says are, “a ghostly gift which reflects the fragility and majesty of the natural world.”


Briski holds a master’s degree from the University of Cambridge and studied photography at the International Center for Photography in New York City. She received fellowships from the Open Society Institute and the Alicia Patterson Foundation, and is the recipient of the Lucie Humanitarian Award, first prize from the World Press Photo Foundation, a Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize, and the Howard Chapnick Grant from the Advancement of Photojournalism. 

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