Seamus Conlan and Tara Farrell: Portraiture & Identity; Reunions, The Lost Children of Rwanda

  August –
September 1997

Photograph by Seamus Conlon from the exhibition The Lost Children of Rwanda at the Gallery of Photography – from Irish Times article 97

Gallery 1

Photographs function as records and as reminders. They serve as evidence and, at times, as explanations. Indeed, photographic images continuously reconfigure the way in which we relate to each other and to our world. Reunions: The Lost children of Rwanda, on view at the Gallery of Photography, is an exhibition which attests to this power in the most basic of photographic portraits.

During the Rwandan war in 1994, Seamus Conlan brought together the resources of the ICRC – International Committee of the Red Cross, UNICEF, Eastman Kodak to help reunite more than 21,000 lost children with their parents using photographic images and is now a standard form of  tracing people in developing nations. The process evolved into “The Lost Children of Rwanda” a traveling photo exhibit 8 feet height and wrapping walls of up 240 feet of images to that opened at the ICP – International Center of Photography in New York and continuing onto the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles in a joint exhibition with celebrity photographer Mark Seliger. The exhibit continued to travel the world for many years, with coverage in hundreds of major print and broadcast media and is now a standard form of  tracing people in developing nations. “The Lost Children of Rwanda” was given a ‘Directors Club’ award for the use of imagery and  Life Magazine later honored the project as being one of the  ‘100 images that changed the world’ and American Photo named Seamus Conlan the 16th of the “100 most important people in photography”.

During the Rwandan war in 1994, Seamus Conlan brought together the resources of the ICRC – International Committee of the Red Cross, UNICEF, Eastman Kodak to help reunite more than 21,000 lost children with their parents using photographic images and is now a standard form of tracing people in developing nations. The process evolved into “The Lost Children of Rwanda” a traveling photo exhibit 8 feet height and wrapping walls of up 240 feet of images to that opened at the ICP – International Center of Photography in New York and continuing onto the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles in a joint exhibition with celebrity photographer Mark Seliger. The exhibit continued to travel the world for many years, with coverage in hundreds of major print and broadcast media and is now a standard form of tracing people in developing nations. “The Lost Children of Rwanda” was given a ‘Directors Club’ award for the use of imagery and Life Magazine later honored the project as being one of the ‘100 images that changed the world’ and American Photo named Seamus Conlan the 16th of the “100 most important people in photography”.

Reunions is an installation of nearly 6,000 small portraits of orphaned, lost or displaced Rwandan children holding boards marked with identification numbers. These portraits were made as part of an elaborate tracing system established to reunite refugee children with their families. Displaced in rows on the gallery walls, as they were on bulletin boards in refugee camps in Goma, Zaire, these photographs convey the extent of the effects of Rwanda’s genocide, and demonstrate the possible and potential social and political uses of photographic documentation.

Installation shot of The Lost Children of Rwanda by Seamus Conlon, Tara Farrell at the Gallery of Photography 1997

Installation shot of The Lost Children of Rwanda by Seamus Conlon, Tara Farrell at the Gallery of Photography 1997

UNICEF, in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross, worked with Seamus Conlan who initiated a project to create identity photographs of unaccompanied Rwandan refugee children in camps near Goma. Photographer Seamus Conlan and his partner Tara Farrell photographed over 20,000 children, often as many as 500 a day. By referring to the identification numbers, the children can be traced through UNICEF and the ICRC. Thousands of children, ranging in age from a few days to fifteen years old have been reunited with families and communities.

Photographic tracing utilizes the accessibility of visual images to break this language barrier. Seamus Conlan’s work with UNICEF and the ICRC is an example of concerned photography in its purest form. Conlan has put photography at the service of the Rwandan children and their families.

Seamus Conlan and Tara Farrell will give a talk in the Gallery at 1:15pm on Wednesday August 20th.

Gallery 2

We are delighted to show new work on the theme of ‘The Portrait’ by the following artists: Paul Quinn, David Monahan, Joe Sterling and Jim Vaughan.

The portrait photograph surreptitiously declares itself as the trace of the person  before the eye. In an official context, the photograph validates identity: be it on a passport, driving license, or form. It codifies the person in relation to other frames of reference and other hierarchies of significance. Thus, more than any other kind of photographic image, the portrait achieves meaning through the context in which it is seen. Curator:Christine Redmond

Photograph David Monahan from the exhibition Portait & Identity at the Gallery of Photography August 19 to September 16 1997

Photograph David Monahan from the exhibition Portrait & Identity at the Gallery of Photography August 19 to September 16 1997