“U. Roberto Romano Papers: Photographs of Child Labor in Coastal Countries” On Display At Avery Point

On display at the UConn Avery Point campus this fall is U. Roberto Romano Papers: Photographs of Child Labor in Coastal Countries. This exhibition is an exciting mix of student work, fine art prints from the archives, and never before exhibited work from the fishing platforms off the coast of Indonesia.

U. Roberto (Robin) Romano (1956-2013) was a prolific photographer and documentarian in the late 20th century. He created work all over the world primarily in Africa, India, the Middle East and the United States that documented child labor and human rights issues. He created the first feature length film on child labor titled Stolen Childhoods with his long time creative partner Len Morris. On display at Avery Point are fine art prints from Stolen Childhoods that were donated to the archives in 2009. These prints are beautiful examples of his early analog work that was shot in both color and black and white. The descriptions of these photographs detail the lives of children trapped in the horrors of child labor in the late 20th century.

In addition to fine art prints, this exhibition will also showcase the student work that has been created from this collection. Dr. Fiona Vernal, Associate Professor of History at UConn, led her students this past spring to create an exhibition on child labor in Africa called The Hidden Costs of Chocolate: How Child Labor Became a Human Rights Crisis. The panels that they created utilize Robin’s photographs to put faces to the countless children that have been victims of child labor in the chocolate industry. They explain what the children are doing on the cacao farms, the tools they use, and how the industry is slowly eliminating the use of child labor through legislation. It is an excellent example of how the Romano papers are being used on campus to educate students, scholars and the public on child labor. There will also be samples of work created by Professor Anna Lindemann’s Digital Media & Design students.

The final element of this exhibition are the never before exhibited jermal prints. These prints were created specifically for this exhibition and showcase Robin’s work from the jermals off the coast of Southeast Asia. A jermal is a fishing platform about the size of a tennis court perched out at sea. Children on these platforms are out there months at a time working for as much as 20 hours a day fishing for tiny fish called teri. They leave their families to do this work, working long hours out at sea for little pay. Robin’s photographs show the lives of these child workers and the greater system that they are victims of. The photographs on display are just a sample of robin’s oeuvre which can be seen in the repository through the following link: https://lib.uconn.edu/libraries/asc/collections/the-u-roberto-robin-romano-papers/

U. Roberto Romano Papers: Photographs of Child Labor in Coastal Countries will be on display from September 13, 2018 to December 16, 2018 at the Alexey Von Schlippe Gallery in the Branford House on the Avery Point Campus at the University of Connecticut.

When: 9/13/18 – 12/16/2018 (Opening Reception 9/12/18 from 5:30-7:30pm)

Where: Branford House on the Avery Point Campus (1084 Shennecossett Rd, Groton, CT 06340)

A New Perspective on The U. Roberto Romano Papers

Marijane Ceruti, Assistant Archivist of the U. Roberto Romano Papers, is a 2014 BFA graduate of the UConn School of Fine Arts. Since graduation, she has worked as a freelance photographer and photography assistant in addition to exhibiting and gaining notoriety for her fine art photography work. She has an extensive technical background in addition to her knowledge of the history of photography.

My first day on the job as the Assistant Archivist of the U. Roberto Romano Papers was a good one. I was handed the torch by fellow UConn alumnus and friend Brooke Foti Gemmell who was taking a different position within the UConn library through her work here. “The first couple of weeks will be intimidating, but you’ll get the hang of it” were words that I heard come out of her mouth more than once. As I got settled in and took the time to dive into the collection I began to realize I shared a lot with the photographer whose work I would be getting to know. Robin and I were both Italian-American photographers who spoke French, liked crass humor and made a lot of the same choices in photography. Robin cited the greats like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank as some of his inspirations and I too could count them as some of my own.

 

 

As I sifted through memory card after memory card of born digital images in the first couple of days, I started to notice that Robin and I made the same aesthetic decisions in our work. Photographers holding their subjects hostage in front of the lens until finally giving into the moment, making corrections to posture and hair as shoots progressed and even down to equipment choices. Without being prompted I found myself collecting my favorite images of Robin’s in a  folder on my desktop titled “Notable Images”. Now the folder is 600 images strong and I’m sure it will continue to grow. As I look at them, I am reminded of how unique of a person Robin was as he exhibited  equal parts compassion and ruthlessness, humility and prestige, documentarian and artist. These traits are necessary and rare in someone that captures such emotionally charged scenes and shares them with the world. I look forward to sharing this information with the public so that they can see the truth behind child labor, the life of an artist and the complexities that come with processing such a large and vast collection that spans a revolution in photography.

Marijane sorting through prints from Robin’s early work in Pakistan

Now that I have been in this position for 6 months, I am starting to get comfortable curating and archiving with Robin’s voice in mind. I see the choices he made and feel confident that I can respect his vision as well as his compassionate and strong voice when representing the collection. I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity to take a peek inside the collection of such an empathetic and talented photographer. I feel blessed that I get to hold a position that is important and valued within the university and the world alike. I hope that I am able to share Robin’s work in the way in which he intended, care for it in the way that it deserves and bring my talents of exhibiting and marketing to the  collection for students and scholars to learn from and enjoy.

I’m proud to say I will bring pieces of Robin’s work into my own as an artist. In a world that is hurting, I am honored to be able to represent a body of work that was founded by the desire to end suffering.

Thank you to the University of Connecticut Library for this opportunity and to everyone that donated to the Robin Romano Foundation to make this position possible.

Romano Photography Exhibit “Lifting the Veil” On Display

Lifting the Veil: A Photographic Archive of Child Labor in Light Manufacturing

September 28th – October 31, 2017
Archives & Special Collections Gallery
Thomas J. Dodd Research Center
University of Connecticut

 

Bangle Making

A young boy puts glass ornaments onto bangles to be sold in the United States and Europe. Child workers are chronically tired from long hours and irregular rest, increasing probability of disease and malnutrition.

From silver gelatin processing of the 19th century to 4k Ultra-High-Definition film of the 21st, photography has served not only to illustrate and document human activity but to also demonstrate and agitate on behalf of its subjects.  Likeminded activists and journalists have similarly sought to employ the camera as a tool for advocacy to change policy, discourse and public perception around past events which inform our future as consumers in a global capitalist world.  Curated and on display in this exhibition are photographic works from light manufacturing industries and the workers they employ as documented through the lens of photographer and documentarian U. Roberto (Robin) Romano.  In particular, the role of children at work remained a constant feature of Robin’s photography and film which became a hallmark of labor activism beginning in the early 20th century with the work of Lewis Hine.  In Robin’s eyes, acceptance of shared concerns across cultures and corners of the globe became the starting point for making concrete change, which he portrayed through photography as his device for “lifting the veil of perceived evil that comes from bias and stereotyping.”  His framing of the inherent concerns in society drew him to document the most vulnerable elements, “I think there is an a priori appreciation that we have within us of a sense of our common humanity. It seems to me it takes a lot of work and a lot of noise to create environments that forget that. And as a result, we are suffering the consequences of our forgetting.”[1]

Continue reading

The Romano Papers: Stolen Childhoods in 4D

Students from Prof. Anna Lindemann's Motion Graphics I course explore the Romano Stolen Childhoods Collection.

Students from Prof. Anna Lindemann’s Motion Graphics I course explore the Stolen Childhoods Collection, part of the U. Roberto (Robin) Romano Papers.

At the end of October, I was delighted to help facilitate a class visit to the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, along with Graham Stinnett, the Archivist for Human Rights Collections and Alternative Press Collections at the Archives & Special Collections Department. Digital Media & Design Professor Anna Lindemann brought her Motion Graphics I course to see the U. Roberto (Robin) Romano Papers in person; the two classes were able to get a look behind the curtain of the Stolen Childhoods collection, to see and handle the physical materials and to learn some context surrounding the digital collection that they were already familiar with.

Professor Lindemann charged her students with exploring the application of motion graphics to still photographs, and then added the challenging component of upholding the intentions of a collection dealing with the gravity of child labor. To Lindemann, it was integral that the students experience the physicality first-hand, and were able to learn more about the motivations behind Romano’s work.

“Working with the Robin Romano collection was eye-opening. Seeing his life-long devotion to photographic art form as a way to raise awareness about child labor definitely made the class and me reflect on our own modes of working and the potential significance of our work. There was something especially striking about seeing his boxes upon boxes of work prints, negatives, photographs, and hard drives, including one of his hard drives labeled “not working.” This brought to mind so many of the aspects that we grapple with in digital media classes: the great mound of (often unseen) work behind a single effective image, and the capacity for an image or animation to be at once impactful and ephemeral.” – Professor Anna Lindemann

Continue reading

The Romano Papers: An Introduction To Archiving The Collection

 

Toddler Screams Atop Garbage At The Bekasi Dump

As a University of Connecticut alum, I can think back to a handful of trips to the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center while working on projects and papers as an undergraduate. Back in June, I set foot in the stacks of the Archives and Special Collections Department for the first time as I interviewed for the position of Archivist Assistant for the U. Roberto (Robin) Romano Papers. I was introduced to the side of the ASC that students don’t typically get to see, and was presented with a literal mountain of material that would soon become my charge. Continue reading

Human Rights, Children’s Literature, and the Art of Youth Activism

CLHR-Image-300x214Join us for the presentation of the 2016 Raab Associates Prize and a discussion of Human Rights, Children’s Literature, and the Art of Youth Activism featuring Professor Jonathan Todres, Author of Human Rights in Children’s Liteature: Imagination and the Narrative of Law (Oxford University Press, 2016), Pegi Deitz Shea, author of numerous books for young people including Abe in Arms (PM Press, 2010) and The Carpet Boy’s Gift (Tilbury House, 2003), and Reven Smith Spoken word poet, musician, writer, social activist, and UConn student.

TODAY, November 10, 2016
4:00pm to 6:00pm
Konover Auditorium, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center
University of Connecticut

Public reception to follow.  Directions to the Dodd Research Center and event details can be found at Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Events.

ABOUT THE RAAB PRIZE:
The Raab Associates Prize has been given since 1999 to give University of Connecticut students the opportunity to learn about illustrating for children and the children’s literature field. The competition was created and sponsored by Susan Salzman Raab, founder and co-owner of Raab Associates, a children’s book marketing agency based in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

This year, for the first time, the prize has focused on human rights, and specifically children’s rights, and represents a joint effort between UConn’s Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and the School of Fine Arts.  Ms. Raab, who is also a 1980 UConn alumna with a degree in English, especially wants to encourage and support people who have interests in the arts and in human rights. The competition is held annually and the prize is awarded to students enrolled in the University of Connecticut’s School of Fine Arts’ illustration courses.

 

Archiving Robin Romano’s Work

This guest post by Archivist Assistant Cristobal Ortega-Berger details his work with the U. Roberto Romano Papers which document child labor in still photography and documentary film.  This collection is a massive resource for film makers like Cris, as well as human rights and photo-journalism researchers. Selections from the Romano Papers are on display in May and June of 2016 in the John P. McDonald Reading Room at the Archives & Special Collections.

The unlock tone rang, I inhaled sterile air, and slid the rubber lid off of a box. Silver and dark hard drives line the inside of six boxes; scores of video cassette tapes and DVDs populate the rest. Data storage’s ubiquity almost make me forget these media preserve evidence of child labor, and progress from it. The question I asked on my first day of work is a simple one that archivists alongside humanitarians ask:

“What are we working with here?”

  1. Roberto (Robin) Romano worked as an international news and documentary producer and photographer. A prolific filmmaker and photographer, Romano worked commercially under Alan Kaplan Studios for private clients like Budweiser, AT&T, and Coca Cola. Romano also worked as a visual journalist for Sept Jours, a Canadian news show, and as a photojournalist for Impact Visuals before he took on his pivotal work Death of the Slave Boy (1997). The two-hour documentary investigated the life and death of Pakistani Iqbal Masih, an outspoken 12 year old child slave and activist.

We are working with files from a well-traveled humanitarian who was as comfortable filming in an illegal quarry as he was researching child labor laws in his cigarette-smoke stained studio.

Young American Migrant Farm Worker Picking Onions

Romano ignited his work on global child labor. He soon traveled to Mexico, Pakistan, Kenya, Brazil, Indonesia, India, Nepal, and inside the United States to interview and photograph working children. The result was the beginning of a movement. Romano Productions and Galen Films premiered Stolen Childhoods in New York on May 20, 2005. The same day, Dana Stevens, of the New York Times, wrote about the film “The bleakness of ‘Stolen Childhoods’ is not completely unremitting; the film also celebrates the efforts of a few successful programs to combat the scourge of child labor around the world.”

We are working with a collection of dangerously and meticulously documented voices and faces that changed legislation, and may continue to do so. Romano left behind photos of child laborers, hidden camera interviews with traffickers and victims, filmmaking budgets, working film scripts, and professional correspondences. During the last decades of his life – Romano made professional relationships with non-profit organizations like RugMark, Goodweave, Human Rights Watch, and other humanitarian organizations. RugMark: Faces of Freedom photo exhibition is one of Romano’s signature projects that shatters preconceptions of human, and especially, child trafficking.

My first work as an archivist is on the Robin Romano collection; my background is in documentary visual journalism. At the time I was approached to work on Romano’s collection, I was editing a documentary about human trafficking called Free Time. In it – academics and prominent leaders who tangibly challenge human trafficking explain the problems in understanding what is human trafficking and its forms.

Human trafficking is discussed using an established visual grammar. Films like Taken (2007) show white, adolescent, rich female tourists who are kidnapped to sell for sex work in Eastern Europe. This is not entirely inaccurate, but repeated exposure to this visual pattern allows others to devalue and ignore hundreds of millions of stories like those shown in Stolen Childhoods. Romano’s evidence disproves the single narrative approach of human trafficking, and the single narrative approach to solutions.

I am not going to be the first photographer filmmaker researching Romano’s collection. As a young visual journalist, I am learning about professional workflow by ingesting and archiving documents like a list of questions for a subject, an equipment budget, or a photo contact sheet. Given the gravity of the collection, I have been forced to ask new questions about perspective and agency: how does one reconcile their privilege as a documentarian relating with the subject or interviewee, how does a filmmaker ask a child questions that conjure up memories of skin-peeling work? Will this collection of child labor ever be obsolete in describing contemporary social problems?

Len Morris, Romano’s co-director for Stolen Childhoods and longtime friend donated the majority of Romano’s physical and digital collections to the Archives and Special Collections in 2015. Morris recently premiered The Same Heart, a documentary discussing solutions to child labor, and used many of Romano’s final moving images. Posthumously, Romano’s work may continue to work to educate and challenge ignorance about poverty, policy, prejudice, and profit.

Cristobal Ortega-Berger

The Balkans from Past to Present

–This is a guest post by UConn Senior Matthew Kosior (Political Science and French/Francophone Studies Major and a Human Rights, Spanish and International Studies Minor), recently completing his internship at the Archives & Special Collections, focusing his work on the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection.  

The Balkans are once again becoming a highlight in international news with the upcoming appointment of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Of the 9 nominees from throughout the world,  5 have originated from the Former Yugoslavia, reflecting the importance of the region and its role in sculpting leaders that are prepared to lead one of the world’s most crucial international security organizations. The news could not put more light onto the region and my current work at Archives & Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

Through my research that has analyzed the various intricacies of the region, I have come across numerous UN resolutions and other documents written by Amnesty International that had been written by Slovenia’s Danilo Türk, one of the current nominees to the UN head position. With his nomination, we see that the plethora of archives possessed by the University of Connecticut have a deep and critical importance not only in the historic realm, but also in contemporary human rights and international relations sphere. These documents demonstrate Türk’s dedication to peace and an end to human rights violations early on in his political career and this nomination has evidently confirmed his fit for one of the most important positions for human rights.

Having spent four months on my research guide, I have taken the hundreds of documents, which are found in the Human Rights Internet archives, and broken them down into topics that easily pinpoint any reader to specific topics of the war. Many underlining factors for example lead to the Yugoslav war, and under my research guide, one can find information relating to the Polish Solidarity movement and how it had triggered revolt and unrest in Yugoslavia. In addition, Yugoslav-Soviet relations and the economic crisis of the 1980s, which had undercut stability in the country also had a detrimental effect to the incitement of the war. The indicators of violence and economic downturn before the outbreak of the war illustrate the factors that all together sparked a horrific genocidal and bloody war in Yugoslavia.

In addition to helping understand the underlying factors of the war, the research guide also has given a fundamental understanding of the wide amounts of advocacy that had been calling for an end to the war and the mass amounts of human rights violations. Amnesty International for example had initiated global advocacy for a cease-fire. Being able to gather all the advocacy reports and systematically break them down into specific topics within the over 50-page guide was very difficult, but it gave me the skills to analyze quickly and effectively within a very organized structure. Without a doubt, the time spent in the Archives had not only made me more knowledgeable about such a complicated history, but further provided skills that are critical for my future career as an International lawyer, such as efficient reading skills, an ability to apply the knowledge attained to the current contemporary events in relation to that part of the world.

I believe that one of the highlights of this internship must be the clear bias that western agencies have when covering an international conflict. The documents at the archives center, without a doubt, are heavily biased. Had I no background in the topic, I would have left this internship believing that the blame for the eruption of war was solely due to Serb aggression. Nevertheless, if we look into history and understand that for example there had been massive Serb emigration from Kosovo due to ethnic discrimination and cleansing of Serbs in Kosovo for hundreds of years, one should have a very different perspective on the current status of the quasi state. The sheer lack of documents that touch on the NATO bombings of Serbia and how thousands of innocent Serbs died essentially by American aggression is one of many examples that help us see this bias. While there may have been a few documents that touch on the topic, most Amnesty International documents avoid to discuss the horrific deaths of women in labor when NATO had “mistakenly” bombed hospitals.

In all, I would say that this internship has well prepared me for my future career and has allowed me to spread awareness of the importance of the region, and advocate for the halt of human rights violations, especially acts of genocide. Furthermore, the ability to organize a very complicated research guide that arranges various topics and hundreds of documents has benefited my skills to research and will further facilitate research for scholars in the future.

Matthew Kosior and the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet

The Same Heart Film Screening

c8d1d1ec-0e61-4abe-89a8-a6547d08c2c5Len & Georgia Morris will be screening their film on child poverty The Same Heart this Wednesday, April 20th 2016 from 4-6pm in the Konover Auditorium at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. The film, screened as part of the Human Rights Institute’s Film Series, follows a growing number of global economists, joining their voices with moral leaders of the world. They agree that an extremely small financial transaction tax, The Robin Hood Tax,” could for the first time, place the needs of children at the heart of the global financial system. Suggesting a sustainable approach,The Same Heart also follows a dynamic Kenyan community organizer who devotes his life to making programs work from the bottom up.

This film connects significantly with our U. Roberto (Robin) Romano Papers in the Archives & Special Collections, recently donated by Len Morris.  Robin Romano, credited as Cameraman in The Same Heart, directed and shot several films on child labor and global income inequality.  Although he passed away in 2013, his creative legacy involves a focus on human rights violations experienced by children around the world. His complete body of work including photos, films, and interviews, is now archived with at the Archives & Special Collections.

Len Morris and Robin Romano

Len Morris and Robin Romano

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016
4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Konover Auditorium 

Thomas J. Dodd Center, Storrs Campus

Human Rights in the Former Yugoslavia

–This is a guest post by UConn Senior Matthew Kosior (Political Science and French/Francophone Studies Major and a Human Rights, Spanish and International Studies Minor), currently interning at the Archives & Special Collections, focusing his work on the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection.  

Violence and Terror in Kosovo, SOS-Kosovo Committee, Geneva, Switzerland. Human Rights Internet, box 99.

With ever normalizing relations between the Balkan states, especially with the recent Serbia-Kosovo talks as well as Montenegro’s invitation to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), from an outsider’s perspective the progress made in the region seems ordinary. One cannot however ignore the fact that the former Yugoslavia has endured violent waves of wars that would permanently strain relations between the various ethnic groups and nation-states that would emerge from the chain of conflicts. The complicated history of the region and its path towards stabilization can be found through the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection (HRIC) found in the Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, which contains a plethora of articles, resolutions, and books relating to the former Yugoslavia. Continue reading

South Africa, Archives and the African National Congress

Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg

Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg

My visit to South Africa on assignment for Global Affairs/UNESCO and Archives & Special Collections began in the first week of June in Johannesburg during an unusually cold winter (for South Africa).  The purpose of the trip was to explore and convene on the archival landscape which had been mapped in 2000 through a partnership between the African National Congress (ANC) and the University of Connecticut.  The initial archives project was funded by the Mellon Foundation to organize, describe and make accessible the ANC archives documenting its activities while in exile under Apartheid.  These archives, located at the National Heritage and Cultural Studies Center (NAHECS) University of Fort Hare (UFH) in Alice, Eastern Cape, have been available in their reading room for public research since 2005.  Between 2000 and 2005, UConn sent faculty, archivists, librarians and oral historians to UFH to hold training sessions and benefit from this skill sharing partnership.  In conjunction, UFH sent archivists and librarians to receive training within the UConn libraries. Continue reading

Martin Luther King Jr. and “Why I Oppose the War In Vietnam”

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) said from the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on April 16, 1967, “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettoes without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.” 

“Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam” – Dr. Martin Luther King jr. Dodd Center, Archives & Special Collections LP’s.

This edition of Martin Luther King Jr. day means many things this year.  A significant day to reflect on historical achievements in the United States for African Americans and people of color regarding civil rights and segregation,  and as a nation, its first African American Commander in Chief takes office today.  Though the Archives & Special Collections at the University of Connecticut may not contain Lincoln’s bible which will be used today in the swearing in of President Obama for his second term, we do have important materials that help contextualize why the issues of human rights for people of color in the United States and around the world matter now as ever.   

A linkage between the US government’s role in violence in the third world during the War in Vietnam and the violence against people of color at home was a major topic of King’s speeches in the last year of his life.  Other important figures like Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois,  Malcolm X and Angela Davis have also taken the stance on racism and human rights abuse to the internationalist position that a violence against people of color around the world is a violence to all.  On this inaugural day of the President of the United States, taking the steps of the building which he will stand upon, built by African Americans enslaved 150 years ago, will symbolize an overwhelming achievement in a nation’s history.  For the role of African Americans in the making of this country that has systematically seen its power turned to their oppression, the event symbolizes an equally outstanding time in history which lays deep within the meaning making of the citizen, the culture, and the class.  The struggles of African American draftees, Medgar Evers of the NAACP, Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad, Freedom Riders from North to South and The 54th Regiment of Massachusetts all became witness to the atrocity and injustice brought to their people.  The contextual archive, such as Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam, also bears witness to those injustices which continue on to lay the groundwork for the now, the tomorrow and thereafter. 

“We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values, we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing oriented society to a person oriented society, when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies…true compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar, it comes to see that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring.” – Martin Luther King Jr., April 4, 1967.       

Materials on Civil Rights and Human Rights can be found at the Dodd Center’s Archives & Special Collections such as the LP Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.  For access to other radical LP’s from our Alternative Press Collection, please contact the Curator.