“If I cave in, if I fold up because of the emotional obstacles that are in front of me, I'm useless. There is no point in me being there in the first place. And I think if you go to places where people are experiencing these kinds of tragedies with a camera, you have a responsibility. The value of it is to make an appeal to the rest of the world, to create an impetus where change is possible through public opinion. Public opinion is created through awareness. My job is to help create the awareness.”
- James Nachtwey at an orphanage for 'The Incurables' in Romania
James Nachtwey (born 1948)
Most of James Nachtwey’s photography has a sort of “shock” value and his work in Romania is no different.
This haunting image bears witness to an atrocity so great that words alone could never do it justice. Much like Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream (1893), Romania 1990 pulls you in and has you asking why.
In 1965, Nicolae Ceausescu declared abortion illegal for any woman under 45 who had not yet produced four children. Tens of thousands of infants were abandoned and left in the care of the state after Ceausescu’s reign ended and were either placed in orphanages, psychiatric hospitals, or, for the ones who were disabled, in “institutions for the irrecoverable.” The conditions were deplorable; the children were malnourished, forced to share cribs and baths, and if they became agitated, they were tethered to their cribs (Hunt, 1 1990).
Time Magazine released Nachtwey’s photo essay “Romania’s Lost Children,” which included Romania, 1990, six months after Nicolae Ceausescu’s rule over Communist Romania ended.