During my travels on the African continent I have spent time with street children, juvenile prisoners, fashion models, horse riders in the Eastern Cape Province, young entrepreneurs, musicians, cannabis farmers and many other kinds of people. During this time, I have had the chance to get to know some of them on a personal level and to create intimate portraits.

The first twelve photos in this series focus on four former child prisoners from Sierra Leone. I hoped to show the trajectory of their lives over the past six years since the NGO Free Minor Africa, founded by the Spanish photographer Fernando Moreles, helped them escape from the very deadly conditions in the Freetown Pademba prison.

Is it possible to kick-start a new and positive future within a corrupt society? Are the boys reunited within their communities, or are they abandoned in the streets? Have they managed to turn their lives around?

For the majority of these minors, no one was waiting for them outside prison. They are released after long periods without rehabilitation. They lost all contact with their family members, as most of them were killed in the war or died from diseases. The lack of opportunities when they are released is directly related to recidivism rates. Only Free Minor Africa provided these youngsters with hope and the invaluable support that no one else was able or willing to give them.

— Stefan Kleinowitz

Kleinowitz’s project was recognized by the jury of the LensCulture Exposure Awards 2017—don’t miss the work from all 44 of the outstanding, international talents!

If you’re interested in seeing more work on this and similar topics, we’d recommend the following articles: portraits of members of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces; The Auburn System, a series on America’s entanglement with the “prison industrial complex”; and (WARNING: explicit imagery) Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia, an uncompromising look at this human tragedy.