Thursday, December 20, 2012

Photographer Marks Decade of Holding Exhibition for Babies Up for Adoption


It has become a tradition for photographer Cho Sei-hon to hold an exhibition just before Christmas featuring pictures of celebrities posing with babies who have been put up for adoption.

Now in its 10th year, the show aims to promote awareness of the issue, and this year it features celebrity couples including Kim Seung-woo and Kim Nam-joo, Sean and Jung Hye-young, and Yoo Joon-sang and Hong Eun-hee.

Photos of the families who adopt the babies are also added to the display. Prior to the opening of the exhibition on Thursday at Insa Art Gallery in Seoul, Cho said he hopes to soon see the day when there is no longer any need for it.

"It's better for this kind of exhibition to disappear as soon as possible. In a way, it's sad and also embarrassing that this has been held every year," he said, lamenting the high number of children given up for adoption in Korea each year.


Clockwise from top left, photographer Cho Sei-hon; A mother and son living in North Carolina, the U.S. show a photo of the boy with actress Ko So-young, taken before he was adopted by the family in 2005; celebrity couple Sean and Jung Hye-young pose with a baby put up for adoption. /Courtesy of Cho Sei-hon 
 
Clockwise from top left, photographer Cho Sei-hon; A mother and son living in North Carolina, the U.S. show a photo of the boy with actress Ko So-young, taken before he was adopted by the family in 2005; celebrity couple Sean and Jung Hye-young pose with a baby put up for adoption. /Courtesy of Cho Sei-hon
Cho began taking an interest in the issue in 2003 when a social worker at the Social Welfare Society sent him an email asking him whether he could "take pictures of these babies celebrating their 100-day birthdays, as they usually get adopted when they are three or four months old."

Cho said he felt as though it was his destiny to reach out and help. "I felt that this was something I had to do -- that I had been waiting for -- and that it had finally arrived on my doorstep," he recalled.

Initially thinking it would be a one-time affair, he happily snapped photos of 22 babies waiting to find new parents, and 30 children with disabilities who would mostly end up living in state-sponsored welfare facilities as few were willing to adopt them. However, Cho said he was unable to walk away after the first year when he saw how much joy it gave the kids to see their photos. He has since recruited many celebrities to help them find new homes by posing in photos together, including Rain, Lee Byung-hun, Kim Hye-soo, Ko So-young, Big Bang, Yoon Eun-hye and Yoo Seung-ho.

In 2006, three years after Cho began his crusade, the government designated May 11 as Adoption Day. Cho said he feels proud of having helped improve public sentiment about adoption, which was formerly considered a taboo subject and source of acute embarrassment in polite social circles.

"I will take more pictures of unmarried single mothers from next year in the hope that more women are brave enough to [deal with the negative stigma and] keep caring for their kids themselves rather than put them up for adoption overseas," he said.


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