In Brooklyn, the Heart Gallery, an non-lucrative association, is exhibiting in the hallways of the Atlantic Terminal a series of 50 large portraits of children, through June 15.
Their names are Ashley, Jonathan or Khadjia and they belong to over 450,000 American children waiting to be adopted by a family. In the midst of the hyperactive crowds of the terminal in the New York outskirt, they offer a big smile to the commuters taking the escalators and running to their trains.
In the crowd, some regards stop and turn to look to the panels. We question. Who are these cute little pudgy faces? These kids, between 3 and 18 years old, have been for the most part taken from their biological parents as the living conditions were considered intolerable, or they were living in an unstable environment. Some of them have been temporarily placed in foster families in the hope of better days to come.
Finding a real house for each and everyone of them: That is the mission of the gallery working side by side with Fostercare, the national organization that manages the administrative adoption files. “Our goal is to draw people’s attention and to open their hearts and be sensitive to this noble cause”, explains Laurie Sherman Graff, director of Heart Gallery New York and adoptive mother of a 13 year old boy. “Even if they are coming or going to work, just a look can make the difference. The photographs can then change the life of a child.”
When a potential parent is touched by these images, he places his name on a list that will be sent to Fostercare. The seekers will receive an answer quite fast and will follow a strict procedure, that will include imposing them to thirty hours of training. On average, a child can wait a year before being able to find a new family. “Even if in the end nothing may happen”, Laurie Sherman says, “the word gets around and the children are heard that much more”.
The Heart Gallery, born in New Mexico in 2001, counts today over a hundred galleries in the United States. It has been joined little by little by well known photographers. Momentarily abandoning the world of fashion or photojournalism, in a few hours of free photoshoots, they come to have fun with the kids. Among them, Amy Arbus, daughter of the famous Diane, or even Paul Lange, who has made portraits of Halle Berry, Tyra Banks and Oprah Winfrey. “In New York, the fishtank of photographers is so important that the public pays lot of attention” states Laure Sherman.
If the exhibition at the Atlantic Terminal has up to now been a success with over 200 seeker signatures, it is not a novelty. Every year, many events of this type are organized throughout the country. Last November, Penn Station held the destiny of the children of Heart Gallery. And Laurie Sherman will not stop there. She is waiting for a new national exhibition in Washington DC, as the one that was previously organized in 2005 at Union Station.
Atlantic Terminal Photo Exhibition
By Heart Gallery New York
Until June 15 2011 at Atlantic Terminal
139 Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217