The Digital Journalist

Letter from
the Publisher

Welcome to the June 2001 edition of The Digital Journalist.

On June 5th, 1981, an article appeared in the CDC journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review, describing the discovery of a new disease. It seemed to be a kind of pneumonia, which for some reason only afflicted gay men, and was fatal. It would be another month before readers saw a small article buried in a back section of The New York Times confirming the existence of the disease. It was called AIDS.

In the first few years, the epidemic spread largely among creative people in the urban areas of New York and San Francisco. Artists, designers, actors, and photographers were among the first to fall ill. Because of their awareness, photographers began documenting it - taking pictures of their friends, and sometimes themselves.

This month, we publish a special edition of The Digital Journalist, focusing on pivotal moments in the 20-year history of photography and AIDS. The project involves many of the biggest names in the photo community, including Herb Ritts, Nan Goldin, Harry Benson, Duane Michals, James Nachtwey, and Ingrid Sischy. The photographs presented are works by John Dugdale, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Robert Mapplethorpe, David Wojnarowicz, Italian photojournalist Paolo Pellegrin, and the famous Benetton ad of AIDS activist David Kirby on his deathbed. These are all people who found themselves suddenly on the front lines of a terrible new kind of war.

We are featuring streaming video interviews with Ingrid Sischy, the editor of Interview magazine, who was with Robert Mapplethorpe the weekend in 1981 when AIDS first became public knowledge; Alon Reininger, of Contact Press Images, who was the first photojournalist to do a major story on AIDS in 1981; and John Dugdale, a fine art studio photographer who became blind as the result of an AIDS-related stroke in 1992, but continues to produce shows and books of his work. We think you will be especially inspired by his story. This is not the story of a victim, but one of a hero.

This special package was produced by our contributing editor, David Friend, who, as Editor of Creative Development of Vanity Fair magazine, spent countless hours calling on the people in his amazing address book.

We also have moving articles from our regular columnists. Bill Pierce, tells the story of Alon Reininger; and Amy Bowers remembers a friend and fellow producer who became one of the 15,000,000 people who were claimed by the epidemic, in her column "The Laughing Place."

Because of the nature and breadth of this project, some of our normal features will not appear this month. They will return in July.

As a final word, this is an issue about how a terrible epidemic spreads. Its rampage continues, now marching on to China and India. It is about how the world of photography has covered it so far. We hope this issue does justice to the dedication and talent of the people who have told the story.

Dirck Halstead


Have you ever had anyone at a social event, come up to you and say something like "Wow! You're a news photographer. What an interesting and fabulous job you have. You must really have an exciting life every day." OK, what do YOU say to them? In this issue of Assignment Sheet, Dick Kraus explains what he tells people these days and why.

Susan Markisz offers up an all-star double header with two compelling journals. The first, "The Violin Maker's Son" is a beautifully crafted piece about how she worked a story about a violin maker. It just didn't seem to come together in her viewfinder-then in an instant, all of that changed.

Finally, in keeping with the theme of this month's Digital Journalist, Susan shares her private feelings as she talks about her own experience with breast cancer and how she can relate it to AIDS and the AIDS story she covered.

Dick Kraus

Today, more than 36 million people live with HIV/AIDS, 25 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

The Digital Journalist invites you to explore these links to other AIDS-related websites.

Your interest, your involvement and your contributions are encouraged and appreciated.

The AIDS Memorial Quilt:
Design Industries Fighting AIDS:
Friends in Deed:
God's Love We Deliver:
Artists With AIDS:
Elton John Aids Foundation:
Youth HIV:
AIDS Walk:
Gay Men's Health Crisis:
Visual AIDS:
American Foundation for AIDS Research:
World AIDS Day:
Lambda Legal Defense Fund:
United Nations AIDS Program:
Treatment Action Campaign:
Action Aid: