Through Positive Eyes – Durban

Silungile-Through Positive Eyes-Durban-1301Photo by Silungile
I’m just back from working on the final chapter of this international arts and advocacy project, in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives to combat stigma.

I teach photography, and co-edit the work with the participants, alongside Gideon Mendel and Prof. David Gere’s team from the Art and Global Health Centre at UCLA.

A major exhibition featuring work from all ten cities has just opened in Durban to coincide with the 21st International AIDS Conference, which begins on the 18th July. The HIV+ve photographers will work as guides and speakers at the show.

I’ll post work from the Durban group during the conference, starting with Silungile.

Silungile

Silungile is a sangoma or traditional healer as well as an educator, HIV activist and grandmother. Here are a selection of her photographs.

Caesarian

Seven people go into a room and eight people come out.

Anaesthetists don’t just work with unconscious patients. This expectant mother is being guided through a magic trick. Sitting beside her, the anaesthetist asks questions, tells her what is happening, and what she can expect to feel and hear. His team help bridge the gap between her emotions, and what is happening to her numbed body.

 

Patient Experience

From my own experiences, I’m aware of the intimacy and vulnerability in handing yourself over completely into the care of someone else.

Everyone remembers having a general anaesthetic. They won’t remember the operation; but they’re likely to tell their friends all about the process of slipping into unconsciousness. The anaesthetist is their guide and protector into and out of this netherworld. For the clinicians the process is routine, yet the anaesthetists and nurses I photographed were always aware of the importance of this moment to the patient. They used charm, humour, calmness, eye contact and a genuine interest in the patient to help them navigate what is at the very least a disorienting experience.








Anaesthetists

Consciousness is a tricky subject, debated by philosophers and scientists for hundreds of years. But anaesthetists turn it on and off and otherwise manipulate it every day. Photographing people losing consciousness is an odd thing. Like a benign and reversible death. One moment they’re there talking as I snap away and the next minute they’re absent, yet still the centre of attention. They are there and not there.
My commission for the Royal College of Anaesthetists took me to hospitals around the country to photograph all aspects of anaesthesia.
I’ll cover other aspects of this extraordinary profession in future posts.

 
 

Donkeys in Ethiopia

‘A woman without a donkey – is a donkey’  Ethiopian saying

There are 6.2 million working donkeys in Ethiopia. When they are fit and healthy they carry water to villages and goods to market. In both rural and urban areas they form the backbone of the local transport and haulage system and provide an income for the poorest families. If they become sick or injured then the work of carrying water and heavy loads to market will usually fall to women. The welfare of donkeys can be a matter of life and death.

Soguba donkey clinic, Ethiopia

Donkeys and ‘resilience’

‘Resilience’ is the latest buzzword in social, environmental and international development circles. Donkeys are known for their physical resilience in the face of drought and abuse by humans but they can also help women’s resilience in poor communities.

Tumme Konton, her husband Sisay and their children live in a tiny settlement called Adankonsole, near the small market town of Soguba, not far from the Kenyan border in Ethiopia.

Although she has no running water, sanitation or electricity, she would not think of herself as poor – in fact she has some status in her community. She has a good stock of animals, including a donkey, which enables her to provide for her family. The Donkey Sanctuary are using this simple story to illustrate the importance of their work in Ethiopia to the lives of people as well as animals.

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Tumme and her family get up shortly before dawn, at about 5.30am, to milk their small herd of cattle and camels.

_MG_1140_MG_1130The family need water; next job is to fetch this with the help of the family’s donkey, Bukke.

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Back home, the water containers are taken off and milk containers loaded onto his back. Bukke must now carry the camel and cow’s milk to the trading point on the highway at Soguba, three kilometres away.
The family and their donkeys walk the three kilometres to Soguba. Bukke knows the way and doesn’t need to be led. He breaks into a trot for the last part of the journey.

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Once at Soguba, Tumme and the other local women producers decant their milk into yet other containers for a trader to transport them by bus. Each container has been permanently marked to show who has supplied the milk; a way of accounting, without demanding literacy.

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Each day the trader transports hundreds of litres of milk to Kenya on the roof of the bus. The following day he pays the women producers, returns their empty, marked containers and collects the next load of milk.

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_MG_1568Bukke’s working day is over. 
The family take him home and rest him.

Having a healthy donkey makes it possible for Tumme, and the other women, to make an income and take part directly in an international market for their produce.
Tumme jokes that Bukke’s importance in the family is somewhere between that of her husband and her children.

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Staff at London Teaching Hospitals

Anxiety

 

Over the last year I’ve photographed patients and staff at Guy’s & St Thomas’, Charing Cross, Whipps Cross and Imperial College hospitals. Because of consent issues I can only reproduce photos of staff and not patients here.

 

Through Positive Eyes – Los Angeles


Through Positive Eyes LASelf-portrait by Guillermo

Through Positive Eyes. New work from Los Angeles

Around the world—in half a dozen countries, on five continents—HIV-positive people open their lives and share their stories. Through their own photographs, in their own voices, they teach the importance of compassion and the power of living a positive life. I am the photo-educator on this project, working with photographer Gideon Mendel and a team from UCLA led by Professor David Gere.

Also visit the project’s site: www.throughpositiveeyes.org