Thumbnail image for this story (this will show up on the stories page of the site):
Relevant issues for this story, separated by commas (eg. war, race, gender):
Race, Poverty
Geographical region for this story (eg. Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia):
North America
Relevant key words for this story, separated by commas (eg. Africa, Hurricane Katrina, Mother Teresa):
Harlem, USA, New York, Inner City
A short summary for this story that will go on the stories page (1-2 sentences):
This project continues my efforts at photographing Harlem, focusing on the life of one child, so people can see, feel and understand what kind of hell these bright, young children have to grow up in.
Ian Martin

1993 — student runner-up

Over the past two years I have spent a great deal of time in Harlem doing community service work. During that time I made friends with many of the children and their parents living in Harlem. I saw first hand the hard core poverty in which they are forced to live. Children play cops and robbers by frisking each other and reciting Miranda rights. Mediocre teachers try to protect the children by limiting the horizons of their dreams. Hope is often theoretical concept.

Rhonda Brown is a six year old girl who currently lives in a foster home. Rhonda’s mother is addicted to crack, and used to abuse her regularly. Recently, I was with Rhonda in what the children call their “back-yard” (a vacant lot with two burned out cars, broken glass, dead rats and empty crack viles). She was leading me around by the hand showing me what to take pictures of, when I started to walk off into a corner to talk with another child.

Don’t go there!” Rhonda shrieked. I asked her why. “Because I saw a girl get raped there once,” she said.

Growing up in the inner city is a difficult, terrible experience that no child ought to endure.

I want to continue photographing Harlem, and spend a week documenting the life of one child, so people can see, feel and understand what kind of hell these bright young children have to grow up in. What’s happening in the inner city is not acceptable, and it needs to change. I want people to share what I have felt and feel the same need for change when they see my photographs. I want to make a difference.

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Children rough-house in their family's apartment. Ian Martin/Alexia Foundation
Rhonda is being raised by her grandmother because her mother is addicted to crack. Ian Martin/Alexia Foundation
A doorway transom provides a convenient basketball hoop. Outdoor courts are run-down and it's safer to play indoors. Ian Martin/Alexia Foundation
A bath in the kitchen sink. Ian Martin/Alexia Foundation
A grimy steel gate that doesn't lock serves as a tenuous boundary between the street and the relative safety of this little boy's home. Ian Martin/Alexia Foundation
Edward Johnson kisses his daughter good-bye before leaving for his temporary construction job. Ian Martin/Alexia Foundation