To honor World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, PopPhoto.com would like to recognize some of
the individuals and institutions working to fight the global AIDS crisis
"I began this project to give a voice to the people behind the statistics," 33-year-old Kristen Ashburn says of her upcoming exhibit, "Bloodline," a collection taken from her work documenting the AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. An enormous task to undertake, for a region where the statistics are daunting -- according to the World Health Organization, 24.5 million people in sub-Saharan Africa today are infected with HIV/AIDS; 2 million people died of the disease in 2005 alone, and approximately 12 million children have been orphaned as a result of it. In Botswana and Zimbabwe, the percentage of adults living with AIDS is 25 and 20 percent, respectively -- figures that are similar to many countries in this region, the most affected by the AIDS pandemic and also facing the greatest shortages of health care and adequate medical facilities.
The images in "Bloodline" are selected from a body of work taken over the past five years. Ashburn began the project without any prior experience or assignments shooting in Africa; shortly after graduating college, while working as a studio manager in New York, she saved money for airfare and a few weeks of traveling, and has not stopped since.
"I knew that I wanted to involve myself in photojournalism," Ashburn explains. "For me in particular, the AIDS crisis was compelling, and if I was going to spend my resources and time and energy on something I wanted to make sure it was a subject I was committed to." Interestingly, the project is entirely self-sponsored; she has never been sent to Africa on assignment (though her work shooting internationally has since been featured in magazines such as Time and Newsweek, among others). Her work was entirely funded through prodigious grant writing and prize money earned through honors such as Canon's 2004 Female Photojournalism award (and, most recently, the Getty Foundation Grant, which allowed her to complete the project).
"It was a true labor of love and dedication of wanting to focus on this issue and this crisis," Ashburn says.
"Bloodline" opens Dec. 1 at 401 Projects Gallery in New York City, at a fundraising event co-sponsored by DKNY Jeans and hosted by Iman, Lenny Kravitz, and Zoey Kravitz, that will feature a silent auction to raise money for Keep a Child Alive and Mashambanzou Care Trust, two NGOs dedicated to fighting the disease in Africa.
Also set to coincide with Ashburn's exhibit is a round-table discussion between photographers and editors and writers in the media world titled, "AIDS and Photography: What More Can Pictures Do?"
The images will be on display through Jan. 14, 2007. For more information, visit www.bloodlineproject.com.