Late Night FDL: Wayne Martin Belger’s HIV+ Photoshoot

 

So I was in a bit of a quandary: A few months ago I wrote about a photographer, Wayne Martin Belger, whose work really moved me. In the course of my writing about him, we became pals since we are both LA natives, punk rock changed our lives, and we both practice “Afro-Caribbean Orthodox Christianity,” more commonly known as African Diasporic religions: Santeria, Voudon/Voodoo, Hoodoo, Espiritismo.

When Belger said he wanted to come to LA and shoot for his series on HIV+ people, I offered to help find models. I also volunteered to organize four other shoots for him of rabbis, priests and imams with another camera. (I’d told him, “I’ll do anything to help you, except book your girlfriend’s travel–that’s up to you!” and so I wrote and sent out press releases, confirmed models, set up craft service at the shoot, etc.) It kind of put me in a weird place, because I felt that since I was working with him I couldn’t really write about him. But then I saw this video from Sunday’s shoot with HIV positive models, and nearly cried. And I wanted to share it with you.

As a model wrangler, I’d contacted a dear friend who works with the Los Angeles County HIV Drug and Alcohol Task Force and Transgender Outreach. She’d put the word out and some really wonderful people contacted us and agreed to pose, including vivacious and charming 73 year-old Thelma James who is on the LA County Commission for HIV and her friend, the very lovely Sandrine Lewis, whose son Will came along, gamely humping gear upstairs and helping Belger to load film. Thelma arranged for super-fox David L. Kelly, who had modeled on an AIDS Healthcare Foundation billboard, to pose for Belger. The goal was to show that HIV/AIDS isn’t a Cute Guy disease. In fact the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV/AIDS states:

Communities of color and women–constituting more than half of the LA County population–continue to be the special populations most disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. Currently, AIDS is the leading cause of death among African American men and the second leading cause of death among African American women between the ages of 25 and 44. In Los Angeles County, for the first time this past year, numerically, Latinos/as with HIV/AIDS now outnumber every other population locally.

I also called on friends of mine who were out about their HIV status, and they all said yes: We had a physical trainer/activist, an artist/activist, a writer/editor/activist, a scholar/activist, and an actor/activist. (Do you see a theme here?)

And then I screwed up my courage and asked Harriet, a profoundly beautiful friend of mine, if she would like to participate. She said yes, and that her daughter Isabella who is also HIV+ wanted to do the shoot, too. Isabella, who set a goal for herself to shoot 90 videos in 90 days, made this mini-documentary/montage of her experience.

The shoot was amazingly moving, so many emotions. Sam Page, the physical trainer who I’d met during the El Coyote/Prop 8 community meeting, began to cry. He wrote later:

I had to stand still for about two minutes for each shot (he took four) because of the exposure time of the lens. While standing there, I stared into the wood floor — and somehow, made out the reflection of my mom’s face looking back at me. Tears began to stream as I thought about all of those who have died—and how important these images will be in telling our stories about the stigma that still exists between the HIV negative and the HIV positive gays. It was truly one of the most moving experiences of my life, when time literally stood still, and I cried, seemingly on cue.

The strength and beauty and love of life each of these models expressed during their time with us was beyond inspirational, as was their commitment to spreading the word that HIV can happen to anyone no matter what their age, race, socio-economic class, education, sexual orientation or any other demographic.

35 Responses to "Late Night FDL: Wayne Martin Belger’s HIV+ Photoshoot"
Dearie | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:09 pm 1

Lisa, I’m so glad you are here at FDL and thank you for all the information and art that you bring to us. I am quite moved by the idea of this photoshoot. Really something.


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:12 pm 2

Lisa!

That does truly sound awesome. I currently have a Ph.D. student who has been working on AIDS prevention and outreach here in Montana for several years (she has a Masters of Public Health). She did here dissertation (which she will be defending in a few weeks) on closeted MSM in Montana, focusing on rural men, and looking at how rural culture shapes identities and behaviors in these men. Reading some of the passages in her dissertation had a similar impact on me. She has a post-doc fellowship at the CDC for next year working with their AIDS prevention programs.


Lisa Derrick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:15 pm 3
In response to DrDick @ 2

Closeted MSM and anyone who has unprotected sex…really tragic. Her dissertation sounds fascinating! And good for her! NAd for the CDC for getting her!


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:19 pm 4
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 3

The dissertation, which has lots of quotes from the men she interviewed is really moving. In addition to the tragic elements (and not all of the guys have unprotected sex), there is also a powerful element of resilience and strength that these men have, that they use to survive in an often hostile world.


Lisa Derrick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:22 pm 5
In response to DrDick @ 4

It must be very difficult. WHat kind of services do they have there–a good infrastructure?


BargainCountertenor | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:25 pm 6

Howdy folks.


BargainCountertenor | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:27 pm 7
In response to DrDick @ 4

Dick,

Would you send me a copy of her diss (pdf is fine) when it’s done?


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:28 pm 8
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 5

Not really. There are programs and people are trying to develop a statewide network, but it is really uphill. We are a very rural state, with less than a million people scattered over the fourth largest state in the union. Missoula is the second largest city, with about 67,000, and there are not ten places in the state with more than 10,000 people. Most of the services are concentrated in the larger towns and cities, which are not evenly distributed around the state.


EvilDrPuma | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:30 pm 9

Hey kids! OT, but I want to be the first here to congratulate Rick Perry for starting an international diplomatic incident. What a fucking imbecile.


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:31 pm 10
In response to BargainCountertenor @ 7

I would be delighted to. I already promised Teddy a copy. She should have a final draft in the next couple of weeks and then has to defend. She really is amazing and a delight to work with. Also very passionate about what she is doing (which comes through in the dissertation).


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:32 pm 11
In response to EvilDrPuma @ 9

I would advise him not to pas through Istanbul any time soon, unless he wants to do a remake of Midnight Express.


BargainCountertenor | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:34 pm 12
In response to DrDick @ 11

I’ll chip in a C-note to buy him a ticket. If he promises to go.


Lisa Derrick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:34 pm 13
In response to EvilDrPuma @ 9

Well, that guarantees him the Armenian vote.


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:36 pm 14

Got it. Knowing Amee, you should get it within a month or so depending on when she can get everybody together for the defense.


BargainCountertenor | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:36 pm 15
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 13

And Armenian-American hyphenates have decided so many Presidential elections.


EvilDrPuma | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:36 pm 16
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 13

He might also do well with any Kurdish-Americans out there. But he’s still a freaking idiot.


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:37 pm 17
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 13

Probably the Greek and Kurdish votes as well.


BargainCountertenor | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:37 pm 18

Lisa, if you can delete msgs, would you please delete my 12?


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:38 pm 19
In response to EvilDrPuma @ 16

Looks like great minds travel in the same gutter. What are you drinking tonight?


BargainCountertenor | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:40 pm 20

Let’s see. Greek-, Armenian- and Kurdish- Americans. Ricky Bobby’s piling up major ethnic enclaves, isn’t he?


EvilDrPuma | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:44 pm 21
In response to DrDick @ 19

Think I’ll go for something bitter in a pint glass.


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:44 pm 22
In response to BargainCountertenor @ 20

The sad part is that those are just about his only constituencies these days. He is running third – in Texas!


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:45 pm 23
In response to EvilDrPuma @ 21

A wee pint of the best bitter comin’ down the bar to yah!


EvilDrPuma | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:46 pm 24
In response to DrDick @ 22

Cheers.


BargainCountertenor | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:47 pm 25
In response to DrDick @ 22

Oh man. You’ve got to be kidding.

I haven’t checked Texas poll results — and Ricky’s third in The Great State. When is that idiot going to suspend his campaign?


EvilDrPuma | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:47 pm 26
In response to DrDick @ 22

Hope that says something about his re-election prospects down there. Texas’ influence is much too great to be directed by Crazy Stupid Guy.


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:49 pm 27
In response to BargainCountertenor @ 25

TPM ran a story on it this morning. I think we can definitely call this one dead man walking.


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:51 pm 28
In response to EvilDrPuma @ 26

Hope you are right, but I am not too confident, given the yahoos they keep sending to Congress.


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:54 pm 29
In response to DrDick @ 27

Oops that was the wrong link. Here is the right link.


EvilDrPuma | Tuesday January 17, 2012 08:56 pm 30
In response to DrDick @ 29

Heh. Either way, the accompanying slideshow is worth the price of admission.


EvilDrPuma | Tuesday January 17, 2012 09:00 pm 31

Well, I have a big day tomorrow, so it’s off to bed for me. Peace out, y’all!


DrDick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 09:01 pm 32
In response to EvilDrPuma @ 31

Take care! I ought to toddle off as well. Take care all.


BargainCountertenor | Tuesday January 17, 2012 09:02 pm 33

Good night all. I think I’m going to slope off too.


BargainCountertenor | Tuesday January 17, 2012 09:03 pm 34

Thanks lisa!


Lisa Derrick | Tuesday January 17, 2012 09:04 pm 35
In response to BargainCountertenor @ 34

Night Bargain!


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