This body of work was completed as part of a research paper in my final year of studying photography. The project primarily consisted of environmental portraits of people working with those with HIV in Wellington. I also photographed a number of people with HIV.
In order to be able to start the project I was required to have a strict consent form which set in place how the images may be used, their availability to the public, and so on. As a consequence of that I can not show any of the portraits without gaining further consent from the individuals involved. I am not happy with the idea of those images being available on this website, or anywhere else for that matter, so no consent has been sought.
However, I believe the series presented tells a similar story using details of the environments of those people photographed.
As an adolescent growing up in the 1980’s, discovering sex and sexuality, I have grown up in a world with HIV/AIDS. While it has not really impacted on my life until this year, it has long held my interest.
I remember following the news as more and more became known about AIDS, as it became far more than a disease infecting a minority community. The issue of HIV/AIDS has touched science, politics, religion, medicine, and society in general. The fact that HIV is more than a medical issue is one of the things I find interesting about the disease.
This year marks twenty years since AIDS was first identified in the United States. World-wide 37 million people have been infected with HIV in that time, and yet there is still a huge stigma attached to those with the disease. Sadly, it seems that many people’s perceptions of HIV/AIDS have not changed in those twenty years.
Four years ago, travelling through East Africa, it was hard to escape the issue of HIV – there were huge bill boards everywhere warning people about the dangers of unprotected sex. Looking through photographs by Sebastiao Salgado and other photojournalists who have tried to tell the world about the plight of HIV in Africa, I felt that it would be interesting to get a New Zealand viewpoint.
There are hundreds of books published on the subject of HIV/AIDS. Artists and photographers have looked at the issue since it hit in the early 1980’s. I wanted to find a new approach to the subject, one which didn’t focus on the more negative aspects of the disease. Most works seem to concentrate on the patients, and largely ignore those who work with and for those with HIV.
Earlier this year, I spent a number of months meeting and photographing people in Wellington who help HIV+ people. For many of them it is part of their profession. For some, the work they do is voluntary. For all it is because of a respect for the people they work with. For me this project was a huge learning curve, both personally and photographically. It also gave me a chance to meet many people I probably would not have met any other way.
I would like to thank all those people who allowed me to photograph them this year, including those not in this exhibition. I have the deepest respect for all of you.
I would especially like to thank Suzana Parry at the Awhina Centre and Suzanne Miller at Wellington Hospital for all the help and advice they gave me throughout this project.
Also thank you to Rob and everyone at Wellington Photographic Supplies for kind sponsorship of this exhibition. And of course thanks to James and Mark at Photospace.