A Body of Knowledge on HIV

Like most photojournalists I work alone and have always preferred it that way, because I find that’s when I get my best pictures. However, when Graham Pitts, an Australian writer, asked me if I was interested in working with him on a project called A Body of Knowledge about women who were HIV Positive, I thought it would be a great opportunity to work in a multimedia context.

My experience with photographing AIDS in different parts of the world has been to focus on the effects — which, of course, were devastating. The idea of being able to produce a strong, upbeat project about women who were HIV positive sounded like a great challenge.

The idea we came up with was that the women would be interviewed about themselves, a section of the words would be written on their bodies, and a short summary of the interview would be placed next to each image. It was decided early in the project that each image should portray a part of the body, but not always the face, because a number of the women wished to remain anonymous.

During the photo session, I would shoot a series of images and then show the model what I was doing, so they could feel comfortable about the image. If they weren’t happy with the picture, we would discuss the problem and shoot it another way or from a different angle.

Even though I am aware that Photoshop can be used to produce writing on the body, I wanted something more authentic, an original image. Also, I felt that it would be photographically more interesting to be able to see through the writing and to have the words mold around the body. So I used a tattoo product that could be removed after the photography shoot had taken place.

The project was not without its challenges, but I enjoyed the collaboration. It made a change from my usual, more solitary approach to photography.

[tags]photography, HIV, AIDS[/tags]

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