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The Faces of AIDS

By UM News

The Faces of AIDS

By UM News
University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences professor reflects on photos he captured of individuals with AIDS; story published in prominent AIDS magazine

J. Tomas Lopez, a professor of photography and director of electronic media at the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences, says he spent four months researching about the essential message in the pieces he would create when asked to participate in a collaborative photography project called Faces of AIDS back in the spring of 1990.

A full narrative of Lopez’s experience photographing individuals with HIV/AIDs was recently featured in A&U Magazine, a publication containing art, activism, and current events emanating from the AIDS pandemic.


“My early discussions with this group of fourteen PWA's (people with AIDS) were about my intent, as well as the motivation of those with AIDS for getting involved in the project,” said Lopez. He recalls how the process went on for months, from September to December in 1990.

“I attended dinners and workshops at the Tampa AIDS Network when none of the other artists were there and stayed hours talking with PWA's. I heard for the first time that AIDS wasn't just a disease of the body but one that took its real toll in the spirit. Many people that I spoke to referred to the alienating nature of this virus, not just because it is contagious nor because it is thought of as a gay plague but because when a person is perceived as dying others are reticent to look them in the eye, ” said Lopez.

The final portraits captured by Lopez are haunting; they are close-up, large shots exhibited in 70 mm infrared black and white photographs. “You must look into their eyes, and there is no averting your gaze. They are just like us. They are us,” said Lopez.

To read the full article about Lopez’s experience and see the images he captured, visit

Photo caption: Dennis, 1990-1991, silver gelatin print, 15 by 15.