The Harsh Divide
This multimedia project was developed as a collaboration with the Treatment Action Campaign in 2003 at a key moment in the history of HIV. At the time, the emergence of new antiretroviral treatments meant that people who had once been condemned to a lingering death from AIDS could dramatically recover and live relatively normal lives. The majority of people in the West who needed such drugs had access to them, yet few who needed them in Africa had been so fortunate. This fault line was, for me, a form of global apartheid and I identified strongly with the variety of civil society groups in South Africa that were campaigning for equal access to treatment.
To make this fault line visible I wanted to explore, at a very personal level, the impact of antiretroviral treatment on people’s daily lives in South Africa. Some of the individuals shown here were very ill and had no access to treatment. Others were already on treatment, had been experiencing its benefits and were campaigning for treatment to be extended to all. Most had bravely revealed their HIV status within their communities in order to combat the social stigma of the disease.
At the time, the technology that allowed 360-degree images to be created was new. Each image is composed of 18 frames that are digitally merged to create a full panorama. This approach allowed me to make an image that could encompass the individual within their wider environment. The project also marked the beginning of my engagement with a variety of multimedia strategies, using recorded sound and video pieces alongside my images.
These images were published as one of the Guardian’s first interactive stories. I also made a series of short films that were broadcast on Channel 4 , with an exploration of these panoramic images as their central structure.