RYAN HERZ: THE CHILDREN OF EDGEWOOD
March 8 –April 27, 2008
San Fernando Road Suite 3
Los Angeles, CA 90065
Tue-Sat 11-5 Sun 1-4
late summer through early fall of 1976, Ryan Herz’s
job was taking ID photos for the patients at a facility for
the developmental disabled. This gave him a unique opportunity
to document a fragment of humanity the public at large rarely,
if ever, sees. The resultant images are of patients who cover
the landscape from mental retardation and severe autism to
Down’s syndrome and brain damage. It is important to
know that, even though some may look like adults, they are
emotionally and developmentally children.
never-before-seen portraits were completed in three or four
sessions. “I had just a few minutes with each person,”
Herz explains. “This both forced me and freed me to
be instinctual rather than manipulative.” That spontaneity
coupled with the intense humanity and the unfiltered emotions
of the subjects gives the photographs their power.
Drkrm. gallery is proud to present this powerful and important
body of work. A portion of all sales will benefit The
UCLA Foundation Medical Genetics Division
EDGEWOOD TO DRKRM
IN 1976 I WAS GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO PHOTOGRAPH EDGEWOOD,
A HOME FOR DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED CHILDREN OF ALL AGES.
THE FACILITY NEEDED I.D. PHOTOS OF ITS PATIENTS. THE LOCAL
SCHOOL PHOTOGRAPHERS WERE THE LOGICAL CHOICE, BUT THEY WERE
UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THE SITUATION. I WAS THRILLED TO BE ASKED,
AND JUMPED AT THE CHANCE. I WAS GIVEN TOTAL ACCESS FROM BEFORE
THANKSGIVING TILL THE VALENTINE’S DAY DECORATIONS WERE
BEING INSTALLED. THE CHILDREN WERE ALWAYS OPEN, NEVER GUARDED,
THEIR EMOTIONS NEVER UNDER THE SURFACE. THE STAFF CONSISTED
OF INDIVIDUALS WHO, JUST BY DOING THEIR JOBS, MADE LIVES BETTER.
BUT IT WAS MORE THAN A JOB. THERE WAS A LOT OF LOVE INTERTWINED
WITH MOMENTS OF CHAOS. THE PORTRAITS COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MADE
WITHOUT THEIR HELP.
I STARTED THE PROJECT BY TAKING THE TIME TO SHOOT 35MM AROUND
THE FACILITY. BY THE TIME WE DID THE PORTRAITS, I HAD GOTTEN
TO KNOW BOTH THE STAFF AND THE CHILDREN. THE CHILDREN WERE
USED TO SEEING ME WITH A CAMERA. I SET UP A SMALL STUDIO AND
WE TOOK THE PORTRAITS IN THREE OR FOUR SESSIONS. I WOULD DO
THE COLOR HEADSHOTS FIRST. THEN I WOULD SWITCH THE CAMERA’S
BACK TO BLACK AND WHITE AND TAKE A FEW MOMENTS TO MAKE TWO
EXPOSURES OF EACH CHILD. THE TIME RESTRAINTS BOTH FORCED ME
AND FREED ME TO BE INSTINCTIVE RATHER THAN MANIPULATIVE. THAT,
COUPLED WITH THE CHILDREN’S TOTAL LACK OF ARTIFICE,
GIVES THE PICTURES THEIR POWER. THEY SEEMED TO THRIVE ON THE
ATTENTION THAT BEING PHOTOGRAPHED PROVIDED. BUT THEN WHY SHOULDN’T
THEY? MOST CHILDREN FEEL THE SAME THING.
AFTER THE SESSIONS WERE DONE, AND THE I.D. S DELIVERED, I
PROOFED THE PORTRAITS AND TRIED PRINTING A FEW OF THEM. THE
TIME WAS TOO SOON AS I WAS TOO CLOSE TO THE EXPERIENCE. I
PUT THEM AWAY.
A SIX MONTH CONVALESCENCE IN 2003 REMINDED ME THAT SOME OF
THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TIMES IN MY LIFE INVOLVED A CAMERA AND
A SHUTTER RELEASE. EVENTUALLY THAT LED ME TO THE BOX WHERE
THE EDGEWOOD NEGATIVES HAD SPENT THE LAST THIRTY YEARS. I
PRINTED A FEW AND KNEW THAT THE TIME WAS NOW.
PHOTOGRAPHY, FOR ME, HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT MOMENTS OF TRANSCENDENCE.
IT’S ABOUT PUTTING YOURSELF, WITH A CAMERA, INTO SITUATIONS
THAT WHILE YOU CAN’T CONTROL, YOU CAN BE PREPARED TO
RECOGNIZE. THE 35MM PHOTOGRAPH “RAINBOW” WAS DONE
IN ONE OF THOSE SITUATIONS. I WAS WALKING DOWN A HALLWAY AND
CAME UPON AN OPEN DOOR. THE LIGHT WAS EXPLODING ALL AROUND
THE ROOM. THE LITTLE GIRL SAW ME AND ROSE TO HER KNEES. I
TOOK SIX EXPOSURES WHILE NOT MOVING AN INCH. THERE ARE MANY
MOMENTS AT EDGEWOOD THAT WILL NEVER LEAVE ME.
IT TOOK THE ENTHUSIASM AND UNDERSTANDING OF JOHN MATKOWSKY
TO MAKE THIS SHOW A REALITY. FROM THE FIRST TIME HE SAW THE
IMAGES, YOU COULD TELL HE KNEW HOW TO PRINT AND DISPLAY THEM.
HIS EXTRAORDINARY PATIENCE INVOLVED PRINTING THIRTY YEAR OLD
NEGATIVES THAT HAD BEEN THROUGH EVERYTHING FROM AN EARTHQUAKE
TO TRAVELS IN A VW VAN.
MY MOMENTS AT EDGEWOOD ARE ON THE WALLS OF DRKRM.
Ryan Herz, March 2008
Children of Edgewood
These images are of patients who have endured various
developmental disabilities. Many exhibit the anatomical
features of chromosomal damage. Others appear to have
sustained damage to the central nervous system. Still
others show the signs of genetic damage. The diagnoses
most likely cover the landscape of mental retardation,
sever autism, dystrophies, Down’s syndrome,
inborn errors in metabolism and/or brain damage pre
or post birth. As is typical, these children will
survive, with some living decades. They exhibit different
degrees of sensorimotor function with many having
severe forms of spasm and joint deformity. They all
experience pain. Conversely, they also experience
pleasure and the excitement of attention which is
self evident in many of the photographs. To what extent
they have developed cognitively depends upon their
specific diagnosis. However, in most cases they retain
the ability to interact with their environment and
their loved ones. Most will deal with the sensations
and desires associated with puberty. The fact that
they sense their environment is not in question. However,
it is still unknown if they perceive the world around
them the same way as a normal unaffected person would.
Viewing these photographs reminded me of all we don’t
understand regarding the human brain. Looking at each
patient I felt the need to reach out to them not only
to provide comfort but also to let them know they
were not forgotten or abandoned. One cannot help but
see in their faces many of our own emotions. I myself
wonder what they feel in terms of dreams and aspirations.
Do they truly understand what lies ahead? Does it
really matter? The patients do not appear to exhibit
hopelessness but in a strange way curiosity and a
desire to engage with other people. How much of this
reflects a person locked up in a restricted brain/mind/body
or an individual that has just adapted, I can’t
At least from the genetic perspective these patients
demonstrate how much can go wrong with only a one
or two chromosomal deviation from the norm . In one
way each patient brings to light their unique existences
with many looking at first hand like young adults.
However, after even a brief period of interactions,
it is obvious that as described many years ago they
suffer from developmental and not adult disabilities.
Consequently, the normal maturation of the central
nervous system is restricted it its ability to mature.
Along with this are imposed the limitations of growth
and the prevention of attainment of most of what makes
up adulthood. When training those that will care for
them, it is important to instill in them that although
what they see is an adult, they are dealing with a
As is evident from the individual photographs, these
“children” were physically well cared
for, especially given the era in which these pictures
were taken. Over the years the course of management
has improved however for many of these devastating
medical problems there is as yet still no cure. There
has been a major emphasis on genetic counseling for
perspective parents and advances in genetic screening.
Seeing these photographs I am overwhelmed with sorrow,
sympathy and an appreciation for the human spirit.
I am once again challenged as to what those of us
in neuroscience research can do and learn in order
to make a difference.
David A. Hovda, Ph.D.
Professor, Division of Neurosurgery