The late artist and AIDS activist Cory Roberts would have loved this. In the early 1990s, Cory and fellow late ACT UP activist Wayne Karr published a small pamphlet called “Infected Faggot” where they talked about the real and metaphoric danger of HIV infected blood. Cory used his own infected blood as an element in his art to lure and terrify spectators as exhibitions.
Fine art photographer Wayne Martin Belger is doing something similar – but uniquely different and artistically exciting. To commemorate the 30th anniversary of AIDS, he is shooting portraits of HIV positive people for a photo series entitled “Bloodworks” using a special handcrafted “Untouchable” camera. He designed and built the special pinhole camera to “pump HIV+ blood through filters across the pinhole aperture, producing ghostly and luminous portraits,” according to a press release about his visit to LA for a Sunday, Jan. 15 session.
More from the press release:
“This camera was designed specifically for ‘Bloodworks,’ which is an ongoing photo series of people living with HIV/AIDS. The portraits create a vital, artistic record of the epidemic 30 years after its start, with the camera as the window,” Belger explains. “Each pinhole camera I build to be sacred bridge of a communion offering between myself and the subject.”
Belger’s “Bloodworks” is included in an exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, opening December 2012 as part of group show that includes artists Joel Peter Witkin, Steven Gregory, Mark Prent, Marc Quinn.
“Yama,” Belger’s most recent handcrafted pinhole camera is built from a five-hundred year old human skull, and embedded with gemstones and precious metals. “Yama” and photos created with that camera were exhibited in the recent BeyondEden 2011 show at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park, and in the La Luz de Jesus 25th Anniversary retrospective. Prints from Belger’s “Wood” and “Yemaya” pinhole cameras are part of the art collection on display at David Geffen Medical Center at UCLA.
Belger, a Southern California native who has worked as a treasure hunter and an on-ice mascot for the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, built his first pinhole camera over a decade ago.
“With pinhole photography, the same air that touches my subject can pass through the pinhole and touch the photo emulsion on the film. There’s no barrier between the two. There are no lenses changing and manipulating light. There are no chips converting light to binary code. With pinhole what you get is an unmanipulated true representation of a segment of light and time, a pure reflection of what is at that moment.”
Belger has a complete roster of HIV+ people sitting for portraits on Sunday but he intends to come back to LA for another shoot in February.