On Borrowed Time: Early-AIDS and the Photobook

Research output: Contribution to Specialist PublicationArticle


Rosalind Solomon’s Portraits in the Times of AIDS (1988), Billy Howard’s Epitaphs for the Living: Words and Images in the Time of AIDS (1989), and Nicholas and Bebe Nixon’s People with AIDS (1991)1 were created during what Alexandra Juhasz and Theodore (ted) Kerr labelled the “AIDS Crisis Culture” period, an intense phase of artistic and political activity between 1987 and 1996 defined by, according to writer and activist Edmund White, the need to “compete with (rectify, purge)” the widespread negative and stereotypical representation of People Living with AIDS (PLWAs) propagated by mass media throughout the 1980s. At the heart of these profoundly touching books is a political thrust that aims to highlight the plight and stigmatisation of PLWAs and change the public perception of the condition as a minority-related issue. Not surprisingly, the visual-verbal discourse presented in these books catalysed a complex discussion that surpassed these artists’ initial and well-intended motivations, generating a vital and pertinent debate concerning the most suitable representation of PLWAs at the height of the AIDS epidemic. This article proposes to re-examine that febrile discussion by looking at how the production and circulation of these three books shaped the reception and interpretation of the messages created by the photographers of these crucial and still timely publications.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationPhotoResearcher
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022


  • Photobook
  • Photobook History
  • Activism
  • Nicholas Nixon
  • Rosalind Solomon Fox
  • Billy Howard


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