You don’t need to be an activist to bring about change. We talk to Keith Bailey, a fashion photographer, makeup artist and wardrobe stylist, about his photography project to bring awareness about AIDS
Tell us about Stop AIDS Worldwide Project.
The Stop AIDS Worldwide project is a photographic project aimed at raising awareness about the AIDS issue, and to raise money for AIDS organizations. It does this through its online FB page, and through Gallery shows at Art galleries across the country.
What was your inspiration behind starting it?
It was International AIDS awareness day, and I was looking at the figures for new AIDS cases in the Charlotte area. Based on Population to cases, Charlotte had the top slot for new AIDS cases that year. I thought, “Wow! Something has to be done to make people aware of that.” So the next day I started shooting pictures.
How do you select the models and who all have you photographed till now?
I don’t really. The models select themselves. I hold photo parties at clubs, homes, community events, and rely solely on people volunteering. Not all the people in the photos have AIDS, many just want to help out.
Where all have you held the photo exhibitions?
So far only in North Carolina, New York and Miami. We hope to expand out with time.
How has the project helped in the global fight against AIDS?
Well, after the project, for the first time in 10 years the number of AIDS cases went down in Mecklenburg County, not by much, but in an area that was having a pretty steady increase every year, for it to go down was significant. Also the number of people getting tested in the area increased so I was pretty happy about that. If we managed to save even one life it was worth it.
All the photographs are in black and white, with red playing an important role. What is the significance of it?
The red stands for blood, it is a blood borne infection. Painting the faces was our war paint, taking the war to the disease instead of sitting back and letting it keep claiming more victims.
How has the response been to the project?
In terms of participation response has been very good. We got no financial support on the project though, so I had to quit after a year. I didn’t have the money to keep it going.
You are restarting the project again. Are you experimenting something new this time?
Yes, this time we are taking pictures of people with teddy bears. There will still be red accents, but the whole teddy bear thing is about how people have become complacent about the disease. They treat it as something almost welcome and cuddly these days, rather than the serious threat it is. I want to get enough bears to actually bury people in them for the shots.
How can one be a part of the project or support it?
We can be found on facebook still. They can come to the parties, and they can send donations if they like. I always need money to keep going. They can also talk to local galleries to have them sponsor showings of the images.
What does Keith Bailey do, when not working on the project?
I am a Fashion Photographer, Makeup Artists and wardrobe stylist. I freelance so I am always looking for the next project. I have done work for film, video and television as a makeup artist, hair stylist and wardrobe stylist so all that keeps life interesting.