More than Just Faces: A Collection of Photographs and Interviews of People Infected and Affected by HIV and AIDS
Klinepeter, Rebecca A.
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Two years ago when I began taking the photographs for my Senior Individualized Project I thought that photographing people with HIV and AIDS would be a wonderful showcase for my skills as a photographer. I knew that it could be a dramatic, emotional and perhaps memorable SIP if done correctly. I was interested in impact which is what lead me to choose the subject of my Senior Individualized Project: people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. Somewhere along the way everything changed for me. The purpose of my SIP was no longer self-glorification. My SIP stopped being about my photography and started to focus upon the people I was photographing and the stories they had to share. All of the people were so unique. Each person that I met and photographed bridged an ethnic, social and sexual boundary that exists. I had no intentions of getting so involved with them. Initially I just wanted to take a couple of pictures, put up my SIP and graduate. Instead I have a new mother named Harriet, a spunky big sister Teresa and a huge black man named Simon calling me to see how I am doing. I wanted to take pictures. I stumbled into a new family and a Senior Individualized Project that took over my life. Each person I photographed led me to another. These people are a small family of interconnected stories. Each person plays a vital role in supporting each of the others. They live in a world where people infected with HIV and AIDS are outcasts. I could not have told the story of one without telling the story of each of the others and in telling their stories I have also told my own. This SIP explores the stereotypes, and burden of secrecy associated with HIV and AIDS. Through the people I met while working on my SIP I became a part of the web of support for those living with HN and AIDS. Although I always was a part of the story of HIV and AIDS in America completing my SIP helped me to discover that I am a part of a larger family. This show is a part of the support unit not only for those people that I photographed, but also for myself and my family. I have come to realize that you have to decide whether to allow HIV and AIDS into your life, not whether to care, but whether to let this suffering become a part of you. I do not remember making the decision to become more emotionally involved with this project than I had intended, but it happened. I had wanted to simply capture suffering on film, I realize now that instead of photographing suffering I embraced it. Instead of telling the stories of a group strangers I have told the story of my own family and hundreds of others like it in America today.