Through Positive Eyes

Edited by Gideon Mendel and David Gere
Foreword by Richard Gere Poem by Mary Bowman Photographs and Stories by 130 HIV-positive arts activists

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7 5/8 x 10 ½ in. (19.5 x 26.5 cm) 196 pages , 272 images Hardcover with jacket 978-1-59711-476-9 December 1, 2019

Through Positive Eyes is a collaborative photo-storytelling project by 130 people living with HIV and AIDS around the world. All have participated in workshops led by South African photographer Gideon Mendel, with photo educator Crispin Hughes, and David Gere, director of the Art & Global Health Center at the University of California—Los Angeles (UCLA). Published on World AIDS Day, the project chronicles a very particular moment in the epidemic, when effective treatment is available to some, not all, and when the enduring stigma associated with HIV and AIDS has become entrenched, a major roadblock to both prevention and treatment. The participants in the project have volunteered to tell their stories, in words and in photographs, empowering themselves in order to banish stigma.

Photography and stories by 130 HIV-positive “artivists”—arts activists—from ten cities around the world: Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Mumbai, Bangkok, Port-au-Prince, London, and Durban.

Gideon Mendel, born in Johannesburg in 1959, established his career with searing photographs of the final years of South Africa’s apartheid. In 1991 he moved to London and continued to respond to global issues, especially the HIV epidemic. Since 2007, using stills and video, Mendel has created Drowning World, an art and advocacy project about flooding that is his personal response to climate change. Mendel received the inaugural Jackson Pollock Prize for Creativity, the Greenpeace Photo Award, and was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet in 2015 and 2019. He has also received the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography, the Amnesty International Media Award, and six World Press awards.

David Gere, Ph.D., serves as director of the Art & Global Health Center at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), where he is professor of arts activism in the Department of World Arts and Cultures. An activist scholar, Gere is the author of How to Make Dances in an Epidemic: Tracking Choreography in the Age of AIDS(2004) as well as numerous journal articles on projects created under the MAKE ART/STOP AIDS banner. Over the past decade, he has cocurated a trilogy of AIDS-themed art exhibitions—MAKE ART/STOP AIDSThe A.R.T. Show, and Through Positive Eyes—seen in South Africa and the United States. 

Richard Gere, the American actor, is a dedicated humanitarian who works on behalf of Tibetan causes, the homeless, and people living with HIV and AIDS. He is a cofounder of Tibet House and board chair of the International Campaign for Tibet.

Mary Bowman was a poet, singer, spoken word artist, and AIDS activist based in Washington, D.C. Born HIV-positive, she died in 2019 at the age of thirty.