Travel includes tourism, but is much wider. It includes work, study, moving, and migration. And travel isn’t always physical. Learning can take you from one place to another in ways that a car or plane never can. I’ve heard the argument that meditation is travel too. To me, the best trips involve overlap – trips where the travel comes from more than one source. The following story, to me, is one of the most meaningful examples of travel I’ve found.
I first came across this story in the September issue of American Photo On Campus. I knew immediately that I wanted to write about it – and that it wouldn’t be a fast or easy blog post. While I wrestled with it, or more accurately, avoided facing it head on, the rest of the world kept on noticing. Recently the National Portrait Gallery‘s Photographic Portrait Prize 2007 announced their selection of new emerging artist Jonathan Torgovnik as the overall winner for his work. The photos were already making waves this spring with blogs like The Girl Project, which also explores the impact of photography, posting a review in April.
As Slate.com describes, these children are often called “enfants mauvais souvenirs,” or “children of bad memories.” Slate points out that Torgovnik himself is a child of Holocaust survivors. The article also how many of these women are deeply committed towards giving their children an education, despite the fact the secondary school is nearly unaffordable for most of them, a fact which led Torgovnik to start Foundation Rwanda.
Part of the impact of work like this is to introduce a topic worth knowing and thinking about. For understanding Rwanda, the two best books that I can recommend are Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories From Rwanda and Colonel Romeo Dallaire’s first hand account Shake Hands With the Devil. Video of Dr. Alison Des Forges, the world’s leading expert on Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and its aftermath, is available here and her report, Leave No One to Tell the Story, is also on the site (thanks to Human Rights Watch website). For a wider view of Rwanda and the international reaction, I recommend Samanta Power’s A Problem From Hell as well as articles on Darfur from The New Yorker and The New York Times.
As far as Torgovnik’s work, an online version of Intended Consequences, with audio and visual, is available here at Media Storm. For physical copies the photographs are collected here and the book is available on sites like Amazon. The project was funded by a Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography. As for his background, Torgovnick went to school in New York and
Canon lists him as a contract photographer in their profile. And here’s Jonathan Torgovnick’s official site.