Photographing for a Cause: Photographing HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ Activists
In photography, TTL (or Through The Lens) metering determines the flash exposure by measuring the amount of light coming, you guessed, through the lens. Through The Lens is also the name of an article I wrote for A&U–America’s AIDS Magazine , America’s first HIV magazine, about award-winning photographer Gerard H. Gaskin.
HIV and AIDS, as well as LGBTQ rights have been two subjects dear to my heart. I’ve been interested in covering them–and did cover them–for years, and hope to continue doing it for many more years to come. The reason I mention this is that, in an attempt to improve our skills and better ourselves at whatever we are doing is to find that one thing–one subject, cause, story–that we feel the strongest about, and cover it. Attempt to become good at covering that particular subject. That subject or story that speaks to us and draws us in might be different from one photographer to another, from one writer to another. But I think it does help to find that something that really brings us to live, as creatives.
For me, that “something” is HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ related stories. Speaking of HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ, while recently being, yet again, on Ron B’s show, No Boundaries, Ron B. asked me why I always cover these kinds of subjects and stories.
The simple answer is, well, simple. Because I’m drawn to these subjects and stories. Because of them, I found my purpose in life–that is write and photograph about something I feel deeply about.
Over the years, through my lens and words, I’ve covered many individuals who make a difference in the fight against HIV, as well as in the fight for equal rights and LGBTQ rights. They also make a difference in my life. They give me, they give many of us, hope.
I look up to these individuals and learn from their stories of survival and perseverance. They don’t only give me hope, but also provide the necessary fuel, energy, that fire inside oneself, to move on and strive to become a better person, “more good,” to borrow a line from Angels in America.
Why bring this up? Because something you feel deeply about does fuel your passion for your work and gives your work life.
I’ve learned a lot from advocates I’ve photographed and interviewed over the years, from award-winning author, Joel Rothschild to the inspiring Nancy Duncan, the most recent one as of writing this post.
Here are only a few portraits of advocates I’ve taken over the years:
I’ve also created several images and composite images that ended up in Fresh Fruit Festival annual art show, at Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.
I called the image posted below, “Facing the Law.” It’s a composite created with the help of a dear friend and wonderful model, MJ. It was inspired by the activist artwork of Avram Finkelstein.
Also, I created the next image to celebrate marriage equality in NY state. It’s a composite. Finding the perfect title for this image is an ongoing process. This images started out as my personal rendering of the classic image of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square, at the end of WWII–the famous V-Jay Day Kiss photo–for an assignment called Homage.
I called the image below “Identity.” Like the above images, “Identity” was also part of one of the annual Fresh Fruit Festival art shows, at Leslie-Lohman, in NYC. I took this image when covering an AIDS Day event in 2007. I became aware of this particular shot only after the show, when browsing through my images on the computer screen.
Hope: A Bauhaus Rendering, created for a Bauhaus photography assignment.
ACT UP and Rise Up to HIV bracelets:
Idea City, with the one and only Avram Finkelstein, the staff of Visual AIDS and members of the Undetectable Flash Collective. We stopped people on the streets of Manhattan and asked them to write their answers to the question “What is undetectable?” on bright red balloons.
Covering the opening of the AIDS Museum in 2006, at Seton Hall University, in NJ.
Covering NYC AIDS Walk every chance I have:
And also the NYC Pride.
And also, “(re)Presenting AIDS” in A&U Magazine every chance I get.
Here’s a bts (behind-the-scenes) iPhone image from my photographing the HIV Warriors prevention campaign in NYC, a few years ago.
I’d like to take a moment and thank a few of my favorite unsung heroes and advocates, in particular my fantastic and phenomenal and favorite editor, Chael Needle, Managing Editor of A&U Magazine and co-editor of Art & Understanding Anthology.
Why covering these kinds of stories? Because, personally, I feel strongly about them. And because I think it is important. Because, again, using light and/or words to tell the stories you’re most passionate about will give purpose to your creative work and help you use your work to make a difference.
As always , thanks for stopping by!