Photographing AIDS: On capturing a disease in pictures of people with AIDS

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The photography of people with AIDS has been subject to numerous critiques in the 1980s and has become a controversial way of visualizing the AIDS epidemic. While most of the scholarly work on AIDS photography is based in cultural studies and concerned with popular representations, the clinical value of photographs of people with AIDS usually remains overlooked. This article addresses photographs as a "way of seeing" AIDS that contributed crucially to the making of the disease entity AIDS within the history of medicine. Cultural studies methods are applied to analyze clinical photography in the case of AIDS, thus contributing to the medical history of AIDS through the lens of photography. The article reveals the conflation of disease morphology and patient identity as a characteristic feature of both clinical photography and a now historical nature of AIDS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-278
Number of pages29
JournalBulletin of the History of Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2016


  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Photography
  • Historical Article
  • Journal Article


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