While Grant was visiting I insisted we stop into see the new photograph exhibit at the Corcoran. Magnum Photos and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria teamed up to document artistically the effect of free antiretroviral treatment in third world countries. The Fund was set up to not only address those afflicted by the disease who couldn't afford treatment, but also to slow if not stop the spread of the disease all together.
We arrived at the Access to Life exhibit expecting to wonder through at our leisure but the Media Relations Manager had set up a walk-through with Jonas Bendiksen, a Norwegian photographer with Magnum who chronicled Haiti, and Bill Horrigan, the curator of the exhibit.
The exhibit is actually a conglomerate of 8 separate photographer's work and each were given artistic liberty with how they wanted to showcases it throughout the somewhat narrow gallery.
"The real challenge was fitting everything in," Horrigan told us.
The photographers made two trips both lasting two weeks and separated with three months. Jonas decided to timeline four patients by bookending Polaroids the patients took of themselves with the intimate shots he was able to snap while in Haiti.
Upon closer inspection, some of the Polaroids included handwritten updates to supplement the photos. "Bien, mal" and so forth.
One observation Bendiksen offered was the patients here tended to have a higher survivor rate than those in the US. This was in part due to the drugs being free, but also because the village health professionals were more regimented about administering the drugs regularly.
In fact two of Bendiksen's patients recovered. But not all cases were optimistic. A majority of the exhibitions' subjects chronicled the diseases' powerful effect.
When asked how Jonas was able to cope with the subject matter, he said, "it's hard, you don't stop being human when you pick up a camera."
But he also says, " I love working on stories that get left behind in the race for the daily headlines - journalistic orphans. Often, the most worthwhile and convincing images tend to lurk within the hidden, oblique stories that fly just below the radar."