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
"Firstly, I want to be independent. Then I want to be useful to the society and share my knowledge with those who are deprived of it. I want to gain respect in the society. This is what I always dream about."
-Rajesh, age 12
Growing up with HIV is a difficult struggle to understand and communicate for those in a fully supported environment, one that has access to medical care, a supportive community, and counseling. Children growing up HIV positive in third-world countries -- who often do not have a supportive community, and who frequently don't have adequate health care -- face a lonelier battle in coping with the disease, which is in many ways more difficult for them to express.
It was with this task in mind that Craig Bender first formed the NGO Picturing Hope, which uses photography both as a way of giving these children a medium of self-expression and of giving them a forum by which they can open up to one another as well as the world around them. Bringing together groups of HIV-positive children/adolescents in five different countries -- Burkina Faso, India, Malawi, Romania, and Tanzania -- the NGO first introduces photography as a discussion tool, and then gives (donated) cameras to the kids, so that they can go out and shoot for themselves. Being able to talk about their pictures with each other makes it easier for them to talk about the pictures with the larger community around them. Most of all, it gives them a way to understand themselves.
Picturing Hope has put an exhibit of these photographs together, entitled "Through Their Eyes." A collection of images from the kids in the program, ages 10-18, shows the difficulty of living with the disease as much as it reveals an often-astonishing maturity. Over the past year the exhibition has traveled around the world, and beginning on Thursday, Nov. 30, it will be on display at the Hokin Gallery at Columbia College in Chicago.
An official opening, including a discussion with three of the photographers and Bender, will take place on Friday, Dec. 1. For more information on the program, visit www.picturinghope.com.