Originated as part of the global MAKE ART/STOP AIDS initiative, this project paints a vivid picture of the AIDS epidemic—after its initial outbreak, and as treatment becomes more widely available. It testifies to the resilient spirit of those facing the challenges of HIV.

More than 140 people living with HIV and AIDS 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). Through Positive Eyes features insider photography by people living with HIV/AIDS. Many of them are picking up cameras for the first time in their lives. Over the past decade, the project has grown, one city per year, to become ambitiously international in scope, now encompassing more than ten cities in eight countries on five continents.

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 photos, in order to break down stigma and empower themselves. They are identified by their first names, in part to emphasize their humanity and accessibility, but also to protect those who live in cities where stigma can be dangerous, if not life-threatening.


Hardcover Book


Edited by David Gere and Gideon Mendel, with a foreword by Richard Gere, the hardcover book version of the project is available for purchase. The book is published by Aperture and commemorates a decade of photo-storytelling.

Supporters

Major funding for Through Positive Eyes has been provided by The Herb Ritts Foundation, led by board chair Erik Hyman and executive director Mark McKenna. We thank them for their sustained and passionate commitment to photography by people living with HIV and AIDS.

Mexico City (2008)

Through Positive Eyes in Mexico City—Una Mirada Positiva—was organized in partnership with Letra S, with major funding from The Ford Foundation and the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS).

Rio de Janeiro (2009)

Through Positive Eyes in Rio de Janeiro—Olhares Posithivos—was organized in partnership with the Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association (ABIA), with major funding from Brazil’s STD/AIDS Prevention Department, housed within the Ministry of Health, and The Ford Foundation.

Johannesburg (2010)

Through Positive Eyes in Johannesburg was organized in partnership with Positive Convention, with major funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and The Ford Foundation.

Los Angeles (2011)

Through Positive Eyes in Los Angeles was organized in partnership with the HIV/AIDS Prevention Unit of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Major funding was provided by The Herb Ritts Foundation, with additional support from the City of Los Angeles AIDS Coordinator’s Office and UCLA.

Washington, D.C. (2012)

Through Positive Eyes in Washington, D.C., was organized in partnership with ARTLAB+ at the Hirshhorn Museum and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. A coalition of sponsoring organizations included: La Clínica del Pueblo, Community Education Group, HIPS, Metro TeenAIDS, National Council of Negro Women, SMYAL, Us Helping Us, Whitman-Walker Health, and The Women’s Collective. Major funding was provided by The Herb Ritts Foundation, with additional funding from The Ford Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, International AIDS Society, and UCLA.

Mumbai (2012)

Through Positive Eyes in Mumbai was organized in partnership with MAKE ART/STOP AIDS and Godrej Industries. Major funding was provided by The Herb Ritts Foundation, with additional support from the Heroes Project, Gere Foundation, and UCLA.

Bangkok (2013)

Through Positive Eyes in Bangkok was organized in partnership with Space Bangkok, with assistance from Rainbow Sky Association, Red Cross—Bangkok, Tantawan Group, and the Bangkok office of UNAIDS. Major funding was provided by The Herb Ritts Foundation, with additional support from The Ford Foundation, Gere Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, UNAIDS, and UCLA.

Port-au-Prince (2014)

Through Positive Eyes in Port-au-Prince was organized in partnership with FotoKonbit, with assistance from Foundation Esther Boucicault Stanislas (FEBS), Gheskio, and Zanmi Lasante/Partners in Health. Major funding was provided by The Herb Ritts Foundation, with additional support from The Ford Foundation, Teiger Foundation, Gere Foundation, and UCLA.

London (2015)

Through Positive Eyes in London was organized in partnership with Positively UK, with assistance from Dean Street Clinic, Baseline, Forum Link, and St. Anne’s Anglican Church. Major funding was provided by The Herb Ritts Foundation, with additional support from The Ford Foundation, Gere Foundation, and UCLA.

Durban (2016)

Through Positive Eyes in Durban was organized in partnership with the AIDS Foundation of South Africa. Major funding was provided by The Herb Ritts Foundation, with additional support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC), The Ford Foundation, Gere Foundation, UNAIDS, and UCLA.

Los Angeles (2019)

Through Positive Eyes in Los Angeles was organized in partnership with the Fowler Museum at UCLA. The workshop and exhibition were made possible by major funding from the Herb Ritts Foundation. It was also supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and a gift from Elizabeth and Graeme Gilfillan in honor of Sarah Gilfillan.

Seattle (2020)

Through Positive Eyes in Seattle was organized in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center and Storytellers for Change. Major funding was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with ongoing support from The Herb Ritts Foundation.

Credits

Directors/Editors: Gideon Mendel and David Gere

Gideon Mendel established his career with searing photographs of the final years of South Africa’s apartheid. For three decades, he has responded to key social and environmental issues around the world. He has received numerous awards, including the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography, the inaugural Jackson Pollock Prize for Creativity, the Greenpeace Photo Award, and the Amnesty International Media Award; he was shortlisted for the Prix Pictet in 2015 and 2019.

David Gere, Ph.D., is director of the UCLA Art & Global Health Center and professor of arts activism at the UCLA Department of World Arts & Cultures/Dance at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture.

We would like to acknowledge our partners and children, who support us in this work—even when it takes us far from home.

Photo Educator: Crispin Hughes with support from Ricardo Funari and Luciana Saldanha (Rio de Janeiro), Mikhael Subotzky (Johannesburg), Parthiv Shah (Mumbai), Vinai Dithajohn and Apichart Sritakae (Bangkok), Marie Arago and Tatiana Mora Liautaud (Port-au-Prince), Simanga Konstant Zondo (Durban), Katja Kulenkampff (Seattle)

UCLA Text Editors: Gabrielle Bonder, Elisabeth Nails, Hanni Ress, Ariel Stevenson

Gideon Mendel Studio: Maria Quigley, Alice Mann

Community Organizer: Hanni Ress

Education Consultant: Timothy Kordic

Exhibition Curators: Carol Brown, David Gere, Stan Pressner

Infographic Research: Lesley Lawson

Website Design & Development: Isaiah Baiseri

Website Design Consultant: Andy Brockie

Website Video: Cut + Cue, Mo Stoebe, Katja Kulenkampff, Jesse Phinney

UCLA Art & Global Health Center Staff & Project Interns (2004–21): Noel Alumit, Marcia Argolo, Isaiah Baiseri, Brij Mohan Singh Bhandari, Gabrielle Bonder, Mikaela Boone, Isadora Carley-Gere, Cathryn Dhanatya, Leo Garcia, David Gere, Kelly Gluckman, Bobby Gordon, Lauren Gould, Laura Sky Herman, Susana Hernandez, Lakhiyia Hicks, Carol Hobson, Claire Hoch-Frohman, Amanda Hoskinson, Ivy Hurwit, Riley Johnson, Kristin Killacky, Francisco Medina, Adrian Meza, Sebastian Milla, Veline Mojarro, Marilyn Montufar, Meena Murugesan, Shiv Nadkarni, Elisabeth Nails, Phillip T. Nails, Lisa Park, Melanie Potter, Isel Ramirez, Hanni Ress, Kathryn Spencer, Ariel Stevenson, Arianna Taboada, Luz Maria Torres, Ivy Tran, Rajeev Varma, Hanna Young, Karina Zysman

Workshop Producers: Janna Shadduck-Hernandez (Mexico City co-director), Alejandro Brito-Lemus, Julia Arnaut (Mexico City); Cristina Pimenta (Rio de Janeiro); Pholokgolo Ramothwala (Johannesburg); Timothy Kordic, Nancy Ramos (Los Angeles, 2011); Ryan Hill, Anna Kassinger, Dan Solberg (Washington, D.C.); Vinitha Venkatraman (Mumbai); Nym Korakot Punlopruksa, Michael Sakamoto, Waewdao Sirisook, Scott Weeks (Bangkok); Marie Arago, Tatiana Mora Liautaud (Port-au-Prince); Jane Bruton, Lesley Lawson, Marc Thompson (London); Paul Browde, Carol Brown, Deborah Ewing, Mabusi Kgwete, Zinhle Khumalo, Stan Pressner (Durban); Mabusi Kgwete (Johannesburg and Cape Town); Gabrielle Bonder (Los Angeles, 2019); Kelly Gluckman, Luis Ortega (Seattle)

Translators and Transcribers: Janna Shadduck-Hernandez (Mexico City); Ana Paula Höfling, Marina Magalhães, Luciana Saldanha (Rio de Janeiro); Katie Boot (Johannesburg, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C.); Kavita Nair Bhatia, Crystal Hues, Ahilya Kaul, Anuradha Kishore, Gopal Nair, Sreelesh Nambiar, Pooja Pottenkulam (Mumbai); Nym Korakot Punlopruksa (Bangkok); Rodolph La Pointe, Tatiana Mora Liautaud, Karl Pétion, Jeff St. Dic (Port-au-Prince); Patrick Phan (London); Maria Quigley (Durban)