In 1986 I learned that a group of men with whom I had lived in college in the 1970's had all died from AIDS. They were gay and rented space to me in their large suburban home outside of Washington, DC. The news of their deaths left me shaken - not only because of my fond memories of them but because we had all participated in the promiscuous sex and drug use of the time. To this day I wonder why I was spared the fate of my friends.
Due to this unanswerable question I decided to focus my work as a photographer on people living with AIDS. As I met and photographed more and more people with the disease, I became struck with the diversity and uniqueness. I have come to feel that the stories I am told and the pictures that I make are precious objects and mementos of a rapidly changing time and place. My role has shifted from documentation to historian and from observer to caretaker.
While I have photographed many aspects of the crisis since 1987, it is the portraits of people with AIDS that are central to this project and it is these that the photographs of events revolve. One without the other is less complete, in terms of history and life, and so I ask you to view this project's elements, portraiture and reportage, as symbiotic. And it is within this relationship that the crux of the project is evident - it is the sense of waiting and the passage of time. It is this aspect which is central to understanding the crisis as I know it.
The work for this project has taken ten years and so the quotes and statements are necessarily dated. As with any dated material, circumstances change and people may not feel today as they did when I first met them. Sadly, some people pictured may have died or made important contributions that I'm not aware of, and so haven't mentioned.
Within the complexity of the crisis lies the political, and reading U.S. Senator Jesse Helms 1995 remark that people with AIDS are such because of deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct does not sit well with me. History will be the judge of disgusting and revolting conduct. Look into the faces that I am showing you and the fourteen-year-old from Missouri and the homosexual artist from New York seem more like members of a vanishing tribe than deviants from the Senator's treasured norm.