Print / View Finding Aid as Single Page

New-York Historical Society logo

Guide to the Claire Yaffa Children with Aids Photographs
1987-2010 (bulk 1990-2000)
 PR 290

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Susan Kriete

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on April 13, 2023
The finding aid is written in English

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.


This collection has been organized into the following three series:

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