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John Washington, DCJohn

When I was in school, I didn't speak much. I didn't really talk at all. I was so into the whole “being sick” thing, and not into living. I was just surviving. And I feel like it's time to live now.

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I was born with HIV, 23 years ago. At the time my mother and father got together, my father was doing drugs. He contracted HIV, and I was born with it. So I always knew I was sick. I didn’t really know what the sickness was, I just had to live my life and keep taking my medicine. That’s how I still see it now.

I was 19 when my mom died and 20 when my dad died. I have a brother who is 26 and another brother who is 25. We actually got closer when my mother passed away. Everybody sits in my room and we chat for a couple of hours, and then everybody goes about their business. That’s how it works.

I spent a lot of time nursing my mother and, after she passed away, I was in shock.I picked up a camera and just started shooting. It was definitely a release. It was like my counseling session. Capturing beautiful things and moments in time is always priceless.

With my pictures, I am trying to make a statement that everyday life can be beautiful, that the things around you can be awesome. There’s a picture of a brown telephone stand that I transformed into an altar of my mother and father, and I burn incense to send blessings to them in heaven. That’s part of my Buddhist practice. (I’m a Rastafarian too.) God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle, and I feel like God knew that I could handle it. I know He knows that my parents made a mistake and my father made the mistake of doing what he did, and I know that He forgave him for that. Having me gave my father an opportunity to do something good.

I want to photograph people and things that are unknown or unspoken of. I want to get to those people whether they are in the United States or on the other side of the world.

When I was in school, I didn’t speak much. I didn’t really talk at all. I was so into the whole “being sick” thing, and not into living. I was just surviving. And I feel like it’s time to live now.

Hopefully it takes me somewhere—I don’t know where—because only God, or Jah, as Rastafarians call him, can decide that.

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