An Evolving Response
In 1996, I was a recipient of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund for Humanistic Photography. This award helped me to fund my efforts to document HIV/AIDS in the late 1990s, which lead to my book, A Broken Landscape. This short film was made for a recent presentation at their 2013 annual award ceremony, to showcase the evolution in my response to the challenge of HIV/AIDS over the last 20 years.
More than anything else in my career, working on this subject has challenged the whole fabric of my craft. How does one convey the immense scale and horror of HIV/AIDS, while also portraying the dignity and strength of the many people who live with the disease, and indeed the many more who have died without the treatment that could have saved their lives?
Over time, I came to feel that an issue as complex and difficult as this could not be dealt with properly through the use of images alone. It called for new, more dynamic ways of storytelling. As my approach towards documenting HIV/AIDS has changed over time, my role has also shifted from that of photojournalist, to ‘visual activist’ and then to frame maker: providing the space for individuals to share their own stories, in their own words, with their own images.