Angel in Central Park

The story of a black-and-white Lensbaby photograph on World AIDS Day 2020

Angels in America has been a source of inspiration for many artists, in particular those capturing the AIDS pandemic of the eighties. The Bethesda angel is a symbolic figure at the center of Tony Kushner’s play, and, itself, a source of inspiration.

Known as the Angel of the Waters, the fountain sculpture designed by Emma Stebbins in 1868 hints at a Bible story of Christ healing of the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda. As it watches over Central Park, in New York City, the angel also alludes to the Croton Aqueduct, the first water distribution system (1842) to provide clean, drinking water to the city. In the context of Angels in America, the angel fountain sculpture becomes a symbol of hope, of a possible healing for those struggling to survive HIV and AIDS during the darkest years of that pandemic.

“Angel in Central Park” - lensbaby b&w image of the Bethesday Angel (statue) in Central Park. Inspired by the movie Angels in America. ©Alina Oswald
Angel in Central Park” – Lensbaby b&w image of the Bethesda Angel (statue) in Central Park. Inspired by the movie Angels in America. ©Alina Oswald

The Bethesda angel in Central Park has always been a source of inspiration for my own work.

Angel in Central Park (above) is an image I made in October 2009 as part of a Lensbaby photography assignment. To create it, I used a special lens, a Lensbaby composer, with a creative star-shaped aperture ring—hence, the star-shaped droplets of water in the image.

Angel in Central Park also represents a source of healing in a more general sense, and also a source of self-healing, of hope that there are angels walking among us, helping us become “more good” (to borrow from Angels in America). Or, perhaps, the angel represents a symbolic starting point in my own journey of self-discovery and in my attempt at self-acceptance….

Angel in Central Park, cropped for #Instagram . ©Alina Oswald. All Rights Reserved.

The photograph was also published last year in A&U Magazine–America’s AIDS Magazine , together with a few thoughts on WAD 2019. As I told A&U, “I’ve always considered World AIDS Day a day of remembrance, a reason to create something commemorating the day and what it represents, to revisit the history of the pandemic and wonder about its future. Also, World AIDS Day always brings to mind Angels in America (the HBO movie), which I always watch on this day. And I believe that there are angels in America, and in the world, too. While some are watching over us from high above the sky, many others live among us. After all, I often meet them in the artists, activists and advocates I get to interview and photograph for [A&U].”

Thank you for stopping by!

Alina Oswald

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