How the wrong photos became the faces of the viral #BringBackOurGirls campaign

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Marco Werman: The campaign to find the abducted Nigerian girls has gotten a lot of strength from the flood of social media messages using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls plus the very personal close-up portraits of young women in Africa that accompany them. Just one big problem though - the photos being used were taken years ago Guinea-Bissau, a country about a thousand miles west of Nigeria. These photos have been seen by millions of people around the globe now and these girls have become the face of the campaign. Ami Vitale is the photographer who took the pictures and she joins us now. So tell us about the girls in your photographs, Ami. Ami Vitale: Those girls are actually very close to my sister and myself. My sister was in the Peace Corps living in this village in Guinea-Bissau and she spent two and a half years there. I visited three separate times and I actually lived in this village for six months, learned some of the language, Fula, and this story was one of the stories I ever did and I made a promise to those girls and everybody that I photographed that I would be honest in the stories and not misuse their pictures. Werman: And these girls in Guinea-Bissau, they weren't kidnap-victims, they weren't in a crisis of any sort. They were just living their lives, right? Vitale: They were just living their lives and things are actually getting better in many ways. This was a story about girls going to school and the villagers were very excited about sending their girl children to school which was very different from the first time I visited and when my sister was in the Peace Corp in 1993. So I was trying to tell a story of hope. Werman: Tell me a bit about one or two of these girls that you photographed in Guinea-Bissau and what struck you about them. Vitale: Well, one of the images that was probably used the most was a photo of Jenabu Balde who was a cousin of one of the families that I lived with. She was inside the school, waiting for the teacher to come and I just took a portrait of her. And people actually, while I was visiting, they brought a generator, they had never electricity in this village ever and they brought a generator and had a celebration there, and things are changing and that was the point of it. Werman: Do you know if any of these girls in Guinea-Bissau, like Jenabu, does she know that her has kind of become part of this #BringBackOurGirls campaign? Have you spoken with them? Vitale: I don't know if Jenabu or anybody from the village has seen it. I suspect the people living in the village may not have because there is no electricity there right now. People do have cellphones though and it is very possible that somebody visiting one of the bigger nearby towns could have seen it. Werman: Do you have kind of any sense of how their lives could be stigmatized by misappropriation of images? Vitale: Well, just like any human being, how would you feel if your daughter's face was there representing abducted possibly-sexually-trafficked girls? This would have been unacceptable to do in the USA and the west and parents probably would have found out really quickly. And those same norms should be applied regardless of where the child comes from. Werman: Photographer Ami Vitale, thank you very much for your time. Vitale: Thank you so much.