In the summer of 1981 I met Larry and our thirty-three year story began. Our early romance created a bond that would sustain our complex relationship over many years. That same summer, the CDC documented five cases of a rare opportunistic infection in homosexual men and the New York Times reported 41 cases of a rare skin cancer—Kaposi’s sarcoma—in gay men living in California and New York. By the end of that year, there were 270 reported cases of severe immune deficiency among gay men, and 121 of those afflicted had died.
In 1986, Larry and I were in the middle of our happily ever after. Our lives were full, our relationship steady and HIV seemed a million miles away. That all changed by the end of the decade when Larry tested HIV-positive. We moved to San Francisco where we volunteered at various AIDS organizations, joined support groups, and attended fundraisers and many funerals. I cannot remember much that did not gravitate around AIDS. My photography transitioned to work about loss as it became the language I knew best. Like others, I analogized the pandemic to war and the early images I made romanticized death as a coping mechanism to deal with overwhelming grief.
Twenty five years later, I revisit loss but move towards survival. These portraits do not attempt to capture the tenor of the early years nor the great strides that have been made since. It simply documents survivorship–the physical, psychological and emotional turmoil AIDS has caused over the last 30 years. For this series, Larry, as well as other friends and acquaintances– all long-term survivors–let me take their photographs. Gone is the romanticized idea of battle and loss. In its place: the stark reality of years of struggle and fight. Collectively, this group of photographs represents a community’s legacy and memorial: we will not be forgotten.