How It Began

Bless their hearts at the New-York Historical Society. The curators there have taken on a topic many would not touch in the good old summertime – or any time – with “AIDS in New York: The First Five Years.” As a companion, the historical society is featuring 20 black-and-white photographs by Bedford’s Claire Yaffa in “Children With AIDS: Spirit and Memory” (on view through Sept. 15).

Yaffa, whose photographs have appeared in The New York Times and other major publications, has worked for years to document medical institutions and their youngest patients, giving face to thousands of individuals – particularly children – struggling with life-threatening illnesses. Among the institutions that Yaffa has worked with during her long artistic career is the Incarnation Children’s Center in the Bronx, one of the first organizations to care for orphaned infants born with HIV. In 1990, Yaffa began documenting the lives of afflicted children and adolescents at the center, continuing her project over a period of 10 years. Her haunting portraits are said to capture the pathos and beauty of dozens of HIV’s youngest victims – most of whom did not survive to adulthood – and the extraordinary devotion of their caretakers.

These exhibits are a reminder that while AIDS has become a chronic illness and the press may have moved on to other immediate crises, the disease remains a daunting challenge.

For more, visit nyhistory.org.

– Georgette Gouveia

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