In 1987, photographer Pamela Fong sat on a plane next to a pediatrician who worked for a child-abuse prevention center. The horrific stories of molestation the doctor shared resonated with Fong. Because of that one chance meeting, Fong began a photography project centered around the survivors of abuse and their families.
The 1991 ICP exhibition Breaking the Cycle: Survivors of Child Abuse and Neglect, presented sixteen of Fong’s photographs. At first glance, the images look like ordinary portraits of individuals and families. But underneath the facade of normalcy is a dark and painful history. Fong’s seemingly innocent portraits reveal how abuse is often kept hidden or deemed a private family matter not to be discussed in public. In many cases, you would never know that these are survivors of abuse simply by looking at their lives from the outside.
The subjects of Fong’s work span different ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds, but all of them have been touched by the affects of abuse. The process of recovery is ongoing, and the survivors’ body language often hints at lingering pain. By bringing their stories into the light, Fong’s work calls us to stop the cycle of abuse in American culture. If you or someone you know is the victim of abuse, get help by calling the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.