Camera reunites Rwandan children, families
October 27, 1996
Web posted at: 8:35 a.m. EDT (1335 GMT)
(CNN) -- Tens of thousands of children were orphaned in
Rwanda following the genocide of 1994.
One photographer recognized the desperation. Working with
various aid organizations, he devised a way to help the
children reunite with their relatives.
"A lot of children show the trauma, the pain, the suffering
and also the hope," said photographer Seamus Conlan.
David Friend, director of photography and new media for Life
magazine, describes Conlan's work as that of a humanitarian,
not a journalist.
"Seamus was a journalist who looked through his lens and saw
parents frantically looking for their children," Friend said.
"He had a very selfless notion to put down his camera as a
journalist and pick up his camera to reunite kids and their
parents and make families whole again."
Conlan himself says he originally went to Rwanda to document
the aftermath of the war, the human suffering.
"When I came across unaccompanied children right in the
middle of that, I just realized that there was a serious
problem," he said. "It was a hopeless scenario."
Conlan worked with the Red Cross and other
organizations that use centralized tracing numbers to track
refugees. Conlan said it was a natural process to put the
tracking number on a picture to be used as a form of
But Conlan soon found the work overwhelming.
"He found out there were thousands and thousands of children
to photograph and that he couldn't do it all on his own. So
he asked if I wanted to take photos as well," said
photographer Tara Farrell.
Conlan says some of the children terrified
because it was the first time they'd ever seen a white
person. The unfamiliar camera didn't help either.
"(They would) hear the click (and) they'd absolutely freak
out," he said.
For Friend, the photos took on a different meaning.
"There's something about the abundance of faces. There's
something about the overwhelming repetition of these
children," he said. "(You begin to) see collectively they
have a power which individually they would not."
Farrell is glad to have been a part of Conlan's work.
"It's quite a blessing to be able to have something that uses
photography as a tool, because there's so much negativity
going on in the world," Farrell said. "And we're always fed a
lot of negative things about war. What's going on (here) is
something that's hopeful, and the strength of the children
actually makes you have strength in yourself."
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