The winning photographs from a contest to capture life lived with HIV/AIDS in images will be on display at New York’s Grand Central Terminal for three day’s only, through April 18. The 2006 Fight HIV Your Way Photography Contest, sponsored by the HIV drug Reyataz, honors photographs by people living with HIV/AIDS that visualize their relationship to the disease.
The grand prize winner, submitted by Howard Grant, a retired architect from Oakland, California, shows a man pushing against the confines of a huge square. Grant explains: “I felt boxed in by concepts such as ‘terminal illness,’ ‘damaged goods,’ ‘poz/neg.’ The bravery and compassion of friends liberated me to pursue new paths and passions. All I had to do was face a new direction and step out of the box.” Each contest photograph was accompanied by a similar explanation.
Reading these, I was struck by how quickly photography is being adopted as a means of therapy—from projects like this to the numerous children’s projects in countries like Afghanistan and India, as famously documented in the film Born Into Brothels. For, while these photos have been awarded their prizes based on the consideration of a panel (including former NYT photographer Vincent Laforet), their true value lies in the reprieve the participants hopefully gained by turning their struggle into something positive they could share with others.
Grant’s image plus the 50 second prize winners’ images can be seen in Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall. After Wednesday they will travel around the country throughout the summer.