On the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, photographer Bill Bamberger traveled throughout the country to photograph the daily lives of the Rwandese people.
Like most documentarians visiting Rwanda at this historic time, Bamberger went there with plans to undertake a post-genocide project: to photograph children who had grown up parentless as a result of the genocide and were now raising families of their own.
But as Bamberger began to get to know the country and people, the focus of his project shifted. Over the course of three months, he journeyed by bus around Rwanda, meeting with Rwandese and international volunteers. During this time, he visited health clinics in Kigali’s poorest neighborhoods, schools in remote mountain villages, an orphanage on the banks of Lake Kivu, tea fields in the south, sugar cane fields in the north, national parks on the borders of the country and tennis clubs in Kigali’s most affluent neighborhoods.
Struck by the warmth, humanity, and collective resilience of the people as they sought to forge a new national identity, Bamberger stopped thinking about the Rwandese primarily as Hutus or Tutsis, or as perpetrators or survivors, as the international media most often portrayed them.
Instead, his photographs explore how the people of Rwanda are finding their way while faced with modern-day issues like healthcare, education and housing. We get a glimpse of how people are living side-by-side in ‘one Rwanda’, the government’s catchphrase for a country trying to put itself back together, 20 years after the genocide.
In the tradition of German photographer August Sander—whose landmark publication Face of Our Time depicted a diverse cross-section of society during the Weimer Republic—Bamberger’s portraits reveal the modern-day face of Rwanda and include: farmers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers, security guards, country club members, construction workers and orphaned children.
Bill Bamberger’s work explores large social issues of our time: the demise of the American factory, housing in America, and adolescents coming of age in an inner-city high school. His first book, Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory won the Mayflower Prize in Non-Fiction and was a semifinalist for the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. His photographs have appeared in Aperture, Doubletake, Harper’s and the New York Times Magazine. He has had one-person exhibitions at the Yale University Art Gallery, the Smithsonian Institution, the North Carolina Museum of Art and the National Building Museum. A trademark of Bamberger’s photography is that it is first shown in the neighborhood where it was created, prior to its museum exhibition.