Thirty years later the photographer has revisited his project about AIDS suffers with a film installation in Fitzrovia Chapel (the last surviving building of Middlesex Hospital) which will be on view until February 5th, 2023
In 1993, Gideon Mendel spent several weeks photographing patients in the UK's first specialist AIDS ward. Thirty years later the photographer has revisited the project with a film installation in Fitzrovia Chapel (the last surviving building of Middlesex Hospital). The film, on view until February 5th, combines previously unseen footage with interviews of staff and family members, projected in front of a secular altar.
"Where's Steven?" "He went out partying," she was told. "He hasn't come back yet"
For several weeks that year, Mendel photographed four men who were in hospital with HIV. He was lucky that they allowed him to take their portraits, as in those years confidentiality about sexual orientation was still an issue because their families did not know they were homosexual. There was a lot of fear and stigma. But these four men saw being photographed as an opportunity to leave a kind of testimony. "Everyone knew they were dying" the photographer tells to AnOther Magazine.
There was a lot of fear and stigma. But these four men saw being photographed as an opportunity to leave a kind of testimony "Everyone knew they were dying"
"I realized early on that what I was seeing was unique and wonderful. To see how patients were allowed to be intimate with their partners and families. It's documented with John, seeing people being allowed to lie down and cuddle. It was a particular sense that gay intimacy was very much allowed. And I think it's that intimacy that makes people able to look at these photographs and be drawn to them. What I find really interesting is the response we are getting to the presentation. For people who are not connected to the medical world or to HIV, the response seems really significant. More people are coming every day. He continues.
Moreover, in the documentary, one of the nurses at London's Middlesex Hospital (opened by Princess Diana in 1987 and the country's first AIDS ward) fondly recounts "The Broderip ward was different. Everyone was dying, and they were my age, but there was also a lot of fun. That was the strange thing. It was probably the place where I laughed the most". Once Sarah went to see a patient and found his bed empty. "Where's Steven?" "He went out partying," she was told. "He hasn't come back yet."