Through Positive Eyes – London

Last March this international arts and advocacy project, in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives, came to London. I teach photography and co-edit the work with the participants, alongside Gideon Mendel and Prof. David Gere’s team from UCLA. This is the ninth city the project has worked in to challenge the stigma of HIV.
Each participant produced a sequence of ten images which will be appearing on the project website:
Meanwhile, here’s a sample to be going on with.


Gordon uses the camera to impose order on a chaotic world – to take back control over his life, his home and his past. Surprisingly his work is pervaded by a dry, deadpan humour. Note the formal, precisely squared up lines in his images.



Marc is effortlessly cool.
His work is deceptively simple, bringing a poise and delicacy to the Day in a Life format. Each ‘spontaneous’ image has an underlying precision in the use of light, composition and timing.



Chris’s work is monumental.
He uses statues as proxies for himself and his struggles. We see him shadow boxing and swimming – merging and emerging from his own reflection.



Keith is coming out as HIV+ve.
He uses everyday objects to chart a journey from concealment to a clear reflection. Alongside this he photographs textures which are teetering between abstraction and identity.



Aaron’s work is about hope.
The drama of his diagnosis is behind him so his work tackles his struggle to make his way in London. Household bills, job applications and a discarded lottery ticket pave the way to aerial views of the city.



Virginia is a horticulturist.
Her startlingly beautiful images of plants and flowers flow across into the human realm through images of pruning, germination and recovery.



James work is political.
He uses dynamic images of lovemaking with his partner to challenge stereotypes around HIV, passivity and victimhood. His work draws on a personal mythology steeped in body politics, art and literature.



Mike’s inner child is close to the surface.
His work revels in a constant playfulness, toying with ideas, metaphors and light.



Maureen is the Queen of the Nile.
She says: ‘My work is about the changing faces of HIV. People think you have to look miserable. I dress differently to make a point.’
Her face and body are a canvas she uses to take control of who she is and how she is seen.



Joshua operates with the detachment of a surveillance camera.
He looks down on domestic scenes from the ceiling, he makes empty rooms look uncanny and his night scenes are full of anticipation. Notice the church and the spectral figure in the van here.



Darren broke the rules.
During the photo training we asked the photographers to avoid the use of flash. He used it remorselessly to document his large family. His brash style captures the movement, humour and affection that flow through his household.



Isaac’s work is a visual cornucopia.
It overflows with a lush, decadent and bohemian inventiveness. But behind the seductive warm colours and candlelight there are uncompromising and clearly thought out ideas about how to live well with HIV.
Here he develops cabin fever as life in a hotel room during a business trip begins to sour.



Graeme’s work is delightfully English, Gay and Christian.
As well as acknowledging the trauma of his past, his reach draws together elements as seemingly disparate as Tom of Finland and the Tooting Trotters weekend walking group – all with a lightly humorous touch.