Joan Parker brought Marc Sawyer and me together. I was telling her that I wanted to do an interesting pro bono project to get through the doldrums of winter 94. "Talk to Marc," she said. Marc had already set up The Living With....Group and had designed and published, "40 Ways....." " It would be wild," he said, " to illustrate the 40 Ways with photographs."
Didactic portraiture. How would it fit in with my style of portraiture? Could a photograph illustrate an idea and try to convince someone to do something and still be a portrait? Was this going to be advertising photography or portraiture? Was there an inevitable gulf between the two?
I called my friend and neighbor, David Meyers, a professional cleaner extraordinaire who does volunteer cleaning and asked him to help me work through this puzzle. Would he pose for number 25 "Help Clean House"?? The next afternoon, he came to the studio with all his favorite brushes, mops, and soaps. We got into it. The intellectual and esthetic issues which are very challenging when discussed over coffee didn't intrude in the studio. Taking the photograph of David with the legendary Polaroid 20x24 was fun and it was a portrait.
I could imagine Marc and me trying to find friends and friends of friends to illustrate the list of helping ways. I wasn't plagued by the aesthetic question, was this or was this not portraiture. Marc called Dannie Kelly and Mauricio Munozo at Community Servings. They came with their pots and stacks of prepared meals. One at a time, we made phone calls, found people, and went down the list. (Considering how bad a winter it was and how many times we had to reschedule I can't believe neither of us thought of adding "Shovel the sidewalk" to the list in homage to the weather.)
This list of what we can do to be involved in the fight against AIDS is grounded in the minutiae of daily life. The projects are simple. They can be done in our neighborhoods, even on our own blocks or in our own apartment buildings. And they are a model for how to be involved in the fight for cures of other diseases. Communication. Information. Participation. Political involvement. Fundraising. Friendship. We all know someone who would swoon for a lasagna left on the doorstoop.
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