Artwork is created for a number of reasons. For instance, artwork may reflect the artist's inner conflict as he or she strives towards evolution. At the same time artwork can serve as the artist's interpretation of larger society and culture. In most instances, the viewer, examining the artwork may find it difficult to discern why the artist has created the work. This invariably adds to the work's enigma.
Even though it is often difficult for the layman to understand why an artist chooses a specific subject or medium, there are instances in which the average viewer can discern the reason and purpose of artwork. Such is the case with the photography that has been collected and displayed on the subject of the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. Thanks to the painstaking efforts of photographers from all over the world, the photographs of the AIDS epidemic have served as the impetus to raise public awareness about the epidemic and educate society about the true tragedies that are occurring in Africa. Through the photography of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, collective consciousness is increasing and more support and aid is being provided for countries and individuals suffering with this tragedy.
[...] When one considers that the AIDS epidemic in Africa has only recently come to the forefront of public consciousness in developed, nations the realization that infection rates peaked in the 1990s suggests that while various governments and nonprofit organizations were aware of the problem and working to develop solutions, most of the lay community was uninformed about this issue. At the present time however, the number of articles published on the topic of AIDS in Africa continues to proliferate. As such, one cannot help but wonder what has served as the impetus for raising public awareness about an epidemic that has been more than two decades in the making? [...]
[...] Photography and AIDS With the realization that the AIDS epidemic reached its peak in the late 1990s and further that the epidemic has only recently come to the forefront of public attention, it seems reasonable to argue that in recent years some social force has served as the basis for raising awareness about this issue. While it is evident that efforts by nonprofit groups to increase funding for projects in AIDS have had a growing impact on raising consciousness about AIDS in Africa, in order to effectively reach the public, efforts to raise consciousness must clearly have had an emotional hook, elucidating the plight of the African people to the world. [...]
[...] Other authors have also noted the impact of photography on raising public awareness of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. In particular, Coutinho (2004) notes the case of photographer Don McCullin. According to Coutinho, McCullin traveled to Zimbawbe in 2001 to capture images of the impact of the AIDS epidemic. In 2004, McCullin returned to photograph the improvements that have been made by introducing antiretroviral drugs. In his assessment of the photographs taken my McCullin, Coutinho makes the following observations: His pictures are an unscientific, but so real case-controlled study of the impact of HIV/AIDS on families lucky enough to access ARVs versus the not so lucky. [...]
[...] Although there are currently no quantitative studies which demonstrate the impact that photography has had on raising public awareness of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, it is evident that recent photographs—put in circulation after 2000—have clearly had an impact on how the public perceives the epidemic. Because the photographs appeal to the humanity of the viewer by demonstrating the true emotions that are involved in the epidemic, public awareness about AIDS in Africa has increased and developed nations are responding more actively to calls for help. [...]
[...] Arguably, the worked created by Don McCullin has had a notable impact on increasing public awareness about the AIDS epidemic in Africa. As reported by both Coutinho and Drinkwater, McCullin's work provides the viewer with a clear understanding of the emotion that is involved in the epidemic. It is because of the emotion and the humanity that is displayed in these images that viewers have been so receptive. Although it is difficult to know for sure how these photographs have increased financial support for combating the AIDS epidemic, it is evident that these photographs provide a lasting and haunting memory for the viewer. [...]
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