owner of New Yorks Paul Morris Gallery, represents established
and emerging artists:
One of the great photographic pieces on the subject of AIDS was done
for Vanity Fair in the 1980s. It was a grid of faces, snapshots.
It was called '' One by One; AIDS: In Memoriam. (Vanity Fair,
March 1987). It looked like a yearbook. It showed 50 faces of people
in the fashion and the arts communities whom AIDS had recently claimed.
You looked at the pages and said: Jesus. All these people are dead?
It really hit home. I saved that issue - - its got Diane Keaton
on the cover, a la Annie Hall. I was recently out of school at that
point in my life, working for about three years, and the guy that hired
me died. And I had to come up a picture of him, for that issue.
Fair was actually doing a take-off on a Life magazine report
called One Weeks Dead, which showed photographs
of all 217 soldiers killed over seven days during the Vietnam War (Life,
June 27, 1969). That story helped change peoples perceptions about
the war. It's one thing to talk about statistics. Its another
to actually see the casualties. The sea of faces provoked this overpowering
empathy and a sense of the true human toll of the war.
When Vanity Fair published its photographs, there was very little
information about the disease at that point. The GMHC was saying, '
' These are the guidelines. This what we know, this is what we dont
know.' ' The more frightening thing was that there was certainly a lot
more that they didnt know. At that point the whole epidemic was
gaining momentum. A lot of people I knew were starting to go to memorials
all the time. There was this staggering death toll, particularly among
those in the creative arts. Everyone from art dealers to choreographers
to painters to writers were dropping all around us. And so Vanity
Fair was reacting to this, felt inspired by having seen that story
in Life, and decided to show all these thumbnails of all these
young, talented characters. It was this extraordinary spread: 90 percent
men, ages 25 to 45. Underneath the pictures, to make it even more heartfelt,
you saw their names, what they did, and the age at which they died.
What was striking about it was: If you think of how young the average
soldier was in the Vietnam War, Lifes issue looked like
a college yearbook. So did Vanity Fairs. In those two issues,
you were looking at the faces of two wars, in a way. It was incredibly
That story really made me start paying attention to obituaries. You
know, in sort of guilty fashion, you turn to the Metro section and discretely
scan the obituaries. For years, always, every week, there would be two
or three: Man in his 40s, choreographer, survived by friend.
Then, with the new HIV cocktail, it all started to slow down. You stopped
going to memorials. But back then, for a while there, anyone in this
city could just sit down, start making a list of people you knew who
had died, and before you knew it, you hit a hundred. When you looked
at that Vanity Fair, you thought, This is just the tip
of the iceberg.