December 1st marks World AIDS Day, and each year it brings back memories of one of the last times the AIDS Quilt (The Names Project) was shown as a complete piece on 10/1992. It drew thousands of people to the National Mall in Washington to experience this memorial to those who had died from AIDS and help people to understand the disease’s overwhelming impact.
Even back in 1992, AIDS had already taken an incredible toll. When I started shooting photos of the AIDS Quilt, I wasn’t sure how to present or capture it and all of the emotions people experienced when they came to the National Mall. I struggled to start envisioning something meaningful, which communicated the care that went into the thousands of 3’x6’ panels made to commemorate loved ones. As I went through the contact sheets with all the photos, it quickly became apparent that one image was not going to capture that emotional day.
It all came together for me when I started to combine the images into a quilt-like design. I highlighted detailed color photos of some quilt panels on raised mirrored cubes, with B&W photos of people who came to remember in the background. This historic day was culminated by an evening candlelight vigil that I depicted as a border to the 3-Dimensional art.
This World AIDS Day is also a moment to reflect on how far we’ve come since 1992. There are great government programs and NGOs (like PSI, whose work we’ve followed for almost 10 years) to help make prevention, care, and treatment a reality. But there’s still a ways to go, including the ultimate and elusive cure.
Whatever your profession or talent, you can find a way to help people living with AIDS. This art is my response.