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Claire Yaffa Children With Aids photographs

Call Number

PR 290


1987-2010 (bulk 1990-2000), inclusive


Yaffa, Claire


2.67 Linear feet (5 boxes, 7 flat folders)

Language of Materials

The documents in the collection are in English.


This collection consists of photographs by Claire Yaffa of children with AIDS, taken over a ten-year period at the Incarnation Children's Hospital in the Bronx. Also included are a series of 1991 photographs of the potter's field on Hart Island, where many of these children are buried.

Biographical / Historical

Claire Yaffa is a freelance photographer, noted for her social realism. Her photographs portray society's less fortunate -- the homeless, the aging, the handicapped -- and focus especially on the problems of child abuse and neglect. Her work has been exhibited at the Hudson River Museum, the International Center of Photography, Sarah Lawrence College, the White Plains Museum Gallery, the United Nations, and other galleries throughout America.

Yaffa's photographs have been published in The New York Times, The Daily News, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. She has photographed for a variety of medical organizations including the National Foundation for Children with Learning Disabilities, Bronx Lebanon Hospital and Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. She has also published two monographs of her reportage work: Reaching Out (1987) and A Dying Child is Born: The Story of Tracy (1992).

More recently, Yaffa has changed her focus from photojournalism to more poetic subjects. Her work has been published by Ruder Finn Press in three monographs, described as a series of visual poems: Moments (2004), Life's Dream (2006), and Divertissement . . . I Dreamed a Dream (2008).

In addition to taking pictures, Yaffa has served as photography editor of Westchester Magazine and photography coordinator of the United Nations Women's Arts Festival. She has also served on the Board of Directors of ICP's Archival and Acquisition Committee. In 1995, she received the Westchester Arts Council Award.


This collection has been organized into the following three series:

Series I: Photographs
Series II: Contact sheets
Series III: Documents

Scope and Contents

This collection is comprised of photographs and documents from a series Yaffa began in 1990 documenting children with AIDs at the Incarnation Children's Center ("ICC") in the Bronx.

In the mid-1980's, a growing number of children with HIV/AIDs were abandoned, orphaned, or removed from their parents because of drug use, neglect or abuse. The foster care system, already overburdened with crack cocaine babies, was unable to find foster parents willing to care for these children. As a result, these so-called "boarder babies," who had nowhere else to live, languished in New York City's hospital wards and in many cases died before foster homes became available.

In response to these conditions, ICC opened in 1989 as a hybrid medical/foster care facility for children born with AIDs. Housed in a four-story red brick former convent in upper Manhattan, ICC provided a homelike residence for HIV-positive children until they were placed in foster homes, or for some of the sickest children, until they died.

Claire Yaffa began photographing the children and staff at ICC in 1990 and continued to document them over the next decade. Exhibitions of this work were mounted at Sarah Lawrence College, the Cleveland Museum of Health and Science, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Neuberger Museum, and Fait et Cause in Paris, France. Yaffa also produced a monograph documenting the 13 month life span of a child born prematurely with the AIDS virus and abandoned by her mother, titled "A Dying Child is Born."

The bulk of the photographs in this collection are portraits of individual children treated at ICC, very few of whom survived. Often they are shown with the staff and volunteers who cared for them. Also included are a series of photographs taken at Camp Compass, a week long retreat in 1995 for children treated at ICC, and at the potter's field on Hart Island, where many of the children treated at ICC were buried. While the majority of the photographs are gelatin silver prints, there are also some color snapshots. Numerous contact sheets include many images that were not printed, providing a more comprehensive view of ICC activities.

The collection also includes one box of documents pertaining to ICC, exhibitions of Yaffa's photographs, and children with AIDS generally.

Access restrictions

Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit

Use Restrictions

Taking images of documents from the library collections for reference purposes by using hand-held cameras and in accordance with the library's photography guidelines is encouraged. As an alternative, patrons may request up to 20 images per day from staff.

Application to use images from this collection for publication should be made in writing to: Department of Rights and Reproductions, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-5194, Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282.

Copyrights and other proprietary rights may subsist in individuals and entities other than the New-York Historical Society, in which case the patron is responsible for securing permission from those parties. For fuller information about rights and reproductions from N-YHS visit:

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: Claire Yaffa Children With Aids Photograph Collection, PR 290, Department of Prints, Photographs and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

Location of Materials

Materials in this collection may be stored offsite. For more information on making arrangements to consult them, please visit

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Claire Yaffa, 2012.

Collection processed by

Susan Kriete

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 15:47:30 -0400.
Language: The finding aid is written in English

Processing Information

Processed by Susan Kriete, 2016.


New-York Historical Society
New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024