Through Positive Eyes

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My name is James and I live in London. I have a lot of tattoos on my body and the mapping of those images is a mapping of loving relationships, and how HIV is set within those. Some are representations of HIV. After my own diagnosis, I was very drawn to the work of David Wojnarowicz, who’s a remarkable artist, painter, writer, who died from AIDS. My arm is a tribute, as it were, to him.

There was a time when I was very afraid of sex, around my HIV status, because of the risk of transmission. In my photography, I was interested in depicting the body within a context of a new fledging relationship, what that means in the context of HIV between the two of us. Because David, who’s also pictured here, is not positive. I believe sexual intimacy is an integral part of many human relationships, unapologetic, sexual intimacy. That’s just indicative of my own desire to represent my HIV as healthy, you know, as healthy and erotic and sensual. Because I am all those things.

I was disappointed to learn that my original set of photos had been censored from inclusion in this project. These explored a single theme, namely sexual intimacy between a couple. Those photos fell foul of child abuse policy in the Los Angeles Unified School District which prohibits students from being shown photos of nudity or sex, regardless of context.

The censored images showed my partner David, who is HIV- and myself, in what was then a fledgling relationship, having sex. The images were kind, gentle, sensual and loving; the antithesis of most sexual imagery to be found on the internet by any curious student.

I chose to stay with the project and the following images were made in response to that censorship.

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