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Through Positive Eyes

10 years. 9 cities. My photo. My story.

Through Positive Eyes is a new art project created by people living with HIV and AIDS. Launched in 2007 by the Art and Global Health at the University of Califonia (UCLA), the project has provided a platform for more than 120 HIV-positive people in 9 cities around the world to tell their stories and share their experiences. They do this for a single purpose: to fight stigma.

Until now, HIV-negative photographers have been the primary chroniclers of the AIDS epidemic. Through Positive Eyes, under the guidance of internationally acclaimed South African photographer Gideon Mendel, empowers people living with HIV and AIDS to report on their own lives. The project puts cameras in the hands of the people most deeply affected by HIV, and most knowledgeable of it, in order to reveal what might otherwise remain invisible or unknowable.

The exhibition presents a broad picture of the epidemic, ranging from revealing self-portraits to abstract studies, that speak eloquently of the emotions and pleasures of daily life after diagnosis with a chronic illness. These photos are noteworthy as art—much of it produced, remarkably, by photographers who have never held a camera before—but also as activism, with the intent of dissolving distrust and fear.

The photographers, or “artivists,” of Through Positive Eyes trust that your encounter with their work will change you in some way, just as their lives have been transformed by their experiences both behind and in front of the camera.

Through Positive Eyes opened at the Durban Art Gallery in 2016 and travelled to Wits University Adler Medicine Museum as well as the Slave Lodge at Iziko Museum in Cape Town. It is currently on a tour of the United States of America. 

Exhibition Curators: David Gere, Stan Pressner and Carol Brown

Photographs by Paulo Menezes

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