A powerful new book of unique photographic portraits of AIDS activists from around the world, including members of ACT UP (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) chapters in the United States and Europe, has just been published. “the AIDS activist project” is a 28-year project by veteran photographer and AIDS activist Bill Bytsura.
“the AIDS activist project is a memorial to the brave men and women who struggled and died while fighting the epidemic and government neglect,” Bill Bytsura said.
“But this book is also a renewed call to action, because the AIDS epidemic is not over. Infection rates are rising again, and the Trump Administration, like Reagan and Bush, is ignoring the dangers.”
From 1989 to 1998, Bytsura photographed AIDS activists from around the globe, beginning with members of the New York City chapter of ACT UP, and branching out to capture members of other ACT UP chapters in San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta, Miami and Puerto Rico. Bytsura subsequently traveled to AIDS conferences in Europe to photograph ACT UP members and other AIDS activists from Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris.
the AIDS activist project features a foreword by David France, the Academy Award-nominated director of the 2012 documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” and author of the award-winning 2016 companion book of the same name.
The genesis for the AIDS activist project came when Bytsura, a longtime New Yorker, lost his life partner Randy Northup to AIDS in 1989. Filled with anger and helplessness, Bytsura attended an ACT UP/NY meeting. Eventually, he channeled his grief into protests and began photographing the group’s raucous street demonstrations. During that time, Bytsura conceived the idea for the AIDS activist project.
“I saw ACT UP members as brave people taking a stand,” Bytsura recalled, “but the public and media saw them only as sinners, lawbreakers and disease carriers. My goal was to photograph a series of studio portraits of these warriors, to show the world their heroic and mournful sides.”
the AIDS activist project book also includes candid shots of AIDS activists at picket lines across the nation, in well-orchestrated protests. Bytsura’s images capture the resistance of activists that drew national attention, forcing the medical establishment and government to act — and, ultimately, elicited empathy from the public at large.
Bytsura’s complete collection of 225 photographic portraits and original negatives, plus the activists’ personal statements, are now archived at Fales Library at New York University, as part of The Downtown Collection.
The book will begin shipping on October 22, 2018, to purchase the book click here.