The history of AIDS has been written many times, but "Positive Pictures - A Gay History" may be the first book to tell that history through essays and art.
The essays and quotes strewn throughout the book come from such gay leading lights and AIDS activists as historian Jonathan Katz, playwright and ACT-Up founder Larry Kramer, as well as German contributors (the text is in English and German in facing columns).
The art incorporates work from noted photographers such as Nan Goldin and Tom Bianchi; news photos; ads; poster; and assorted other media.
The result is a powerful statement about the how the AIDS epidemic both decimated and reshaped gay culture and gay communities from Los Angeles to Berlin. There are essays on the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, the San Francisco-based drag charitable group; how AIDS changed porn (and how porn affected AIDS); on medicine helpless to help and medical miracles; an interview with the influential German film director and gay right activist Rosa von Praunheim; and an interview with ChiChi LaRue, the porn director and safe-sex advocate.
A vivid timeline gives the reader an overview of the scope of the epidemic, but it’s the art -- sometimes whimsical, often poignant; and, in photos of men in in the terminal stages of illness, that’s pretty hard to take.
But take it we must. The story of how gay men responded to AIDS has become a testament, as Kramer says, not to how we died but how so many of us lived to take care of the dying.
AIDS didn’t destroy the gay community. It helped forge it into a force that is now shaking the world.