Eric Gottesman – If I Could See Your Face I Would Not Need Food
“Between 1999 and 2004, I made roughly 35 formal portraits of people infected with the HIV virus. Because of the stigma surrounding the disease at that time, my subjects did not allow me to photograph their faces.
Out of necessity, I changed cameras and used Polaroid positive/negative black and white film. I showed each image to the subject immediately after exposing the film. If the subject approved of the image, he/she wrote me a permission form, allowing me to exhibit and publish it. If not, we destroyed the image on the spot. In this web gallery are a selection of the images I am allowed to use.
When I displayed this series of photographs in Addis Ababa, some criticized me for hiding the faces of my subjects, who were clients of AIDS clinics, though it was the subjects that decided to hide their faces. The title comes from an Ethiopian proverb that means: dignity is more important than food, even to someone who is starving. It is through granting the subjects the right to hide their faces that I showed them respect.
The last portrait I made in this series was in 2004, when I photographed the faces of the first two Ethiopian women who gave me permission. When this happened, I was so happy that I made their portraits into huge 16 x 20 foot photographs that hung in Addis Ababa City Hall in 2004.”
The First Woman With HIV in Ethiopia That Permitted Me to Photograph her Face