Across Africa, it was a time of famine and cholera, a time of unparalleled turmoil and historic upheaval. Somali warlords rose to absolute power, exacerbating a horrific famine; the United States put troops on the ground, with mixed results, while the first all-race elections were held in South Africa.

In 1994, in Rwanda, hundreds of thousands fled as a barbaric, sectarian genocide killed between 800 000 and a million. Fifty thousand refugees then died in the squalor of the transit camps as cholera and dysentery swept through the overcrowded tent villages. In Goma, in neighboring Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), a cholera epidemic killed hundreds of thousands. The crisis continued until 1996 when Rwandans began journeying home. And Yunghi Kim documented it all.

Working up close and finding intimate and emotional glimmers of humanity in the darkest and bleakest of moments are hallmarks of Yunghi Kim’s work. These four years of intense work in Africa were seminal chapters in Yunghi’s life. As Boston Globe staff photographer, she was taken hostage in Somalia and, only days after being released, found the courage to return there to complete her assignment. She was exposed to the worst and the best of mankind, and was always able to see the beauty of Africa and the people of Africa. Revisiting the work twenty years later has been a humbling experience.


That period in Africa was also a time when a small number of determined, dedicated, female professional photographers were covering conflicts on a regular basis. Her peers were Alexandra Boulat, Alexandra Avakian, Corinne Dufka, Louise Gubb, Paula Scully, Dayna Smith, Judy Walgren and Carol Guzy; all were working in the male-dominated photo industry and making their mark.

Yunghi was fortunate to have been influenced early in her career by the great tradition of tough, proud yet sensitive photojournalists at the Boston Globe: Stan Grossfeld (two Pulitzer Prizes), Bill Greene (now director of photography), and Janet Knott (the third woman to receive the Robert Capa Medal). They taught her to think big and tell epic stories.

Jeffrey D. Smith, Director at Contact Press Images

Yunghi Kim

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