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$19,389 pledged of $47,250 goal
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About this project

the AIDS activist project: A new book of portraits of AIDS activists from around the globe.

Robert Garcia, 1962-1993 ACT UP New York, Photographed in New York City, 1990
Robert Garcia, 1962-1993 ACT UP New York, Photographed in New York City, 1990

Introducing the first coffee table-style art book to depict global members of the AIDS activist organization ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. Twenty-five years in the making, this labor of love was started in 1989 by Bill Bytsura, a New York City-based photographer and member of ACT UP/New York. This project was born of grief and anger. 

In 1989, Bill Bytsura lost his partner Randy Northup to AIDS. It was a time when there were few medications available and no promising treatments on the horizon. Panic and prejudice towards people with AIDS — and gay people in particular — was at a fevered height and there was no legal protection when people were evicted from their homes or their jobs because of AIDS phobia. It was a frightening time. 

After Randy’s death, a friend suggested that Bill attend meetings of the new activist group ACT UP, for support and an outlet for his feelings. While the first meeting was loud, passionate and intimidating, Bytsura eventually found a new family among these people. Being a photographer, he joined the ACT UP Media Committee. 

Larry Kramer, contact sheet, Photographed in New York City, 1991
Larry Kramer, contact sheet, Photographed in New York City, 1991

While Bytsura documented the many theatrical and angry street demonstrations created by ACT UP, he also felt the world needed to see the private, more contemplative, sides of his brave comrades. Then, perhaps they would not be demonized and their important work ignored. 

One day, while sitting through another highly emotional meeting, Bytsura had an idea: He would create a series of portraits of activists — not in the streets, where they were protesting in anger, but in more intimate settings where their humanity shone through. the AIDS activist project was born. 

The project began with sessions in Bytsura’s East Village photo studio. It grew quickly, sending the photographer to cities around America where other ACT UP chapters thrived. Eventually, Bill went abroad, intent on capturing the full diversity of the movement by photographing ACT UP members in other countries. The cities and countries included: New York City, Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, San Juan, Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris. 

Bytsura’s portraits of AIDS activists have been exhibited in New York City and were included in the 1992 exhibition “Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of AIDS” at the National Gallery of Australia. In March of 2012, New York magazine showcased Bytsura’s activist portraits in an article on the early days of the epidemic, titled “Pictures From a Battlefield.”

Resi Kompier, ACT UP Amsterdam, Photographed at the 1992 International Conference on AIDS in Amsterdam
Resi Kompier, ACT UP Amsterdam, Photographed at the 1992 International Conference on AIDS in Amsterdam
 

Risks and challenges

Bytsura has convened a formidable team of artists, activists and educators to make the AIDS Activist Project book a reality. They are:

Scott Williams - Layout and Design 

Les Williams/Embassy Graphics - Prepress
Jim Magargee - Master Printer, MVLabs
Jay Blotcher and Alan Klein - Public Impact Media Consultants
Marvin Taylor, Director, The Fales Library, New York University

The success of this project – a living memorial to ACT UP comrades – depends on you. Please support this Kickstarter campaign. Bytsura has lined up a series of unique incentives to thank donors to the project.

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    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    A big Thank You! from me right now. And another big "Thank You" by name on the acknowledgment page of the book.

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    Digital excerpt from the book. Receive a selection of 10 images in digital book form. You will also be thanked by name on the acknowledgments page of the book.

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    Digital excerpt from the book. Receive a selection of 20 images in digital book form. You will also be thanked by name on the acknowledgments page of the book.

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    First edition copy of the book, personalized and signed by the artist.

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    First edition copy of the book, personalized and signed by the artist, plus one 8x10 Giclée print of cover image.

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    Pledge $350 or more About $350

    First edition copy of book, signed by author, plus two 2 8x10 Giclee prints from images printed in book. You will be thanked by name on the acknowledgements page in the book.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    First edition copy of the book, personalized and signed by the artist, plus one 8x10, signed & numbered, limited edition artist proof of image printed in the book. Image is hand printed, selenium toned silver gelatin print, "bon á tirer" (good to print). Limited to an edition of 10 of any one image printed in book. You will be thanked by name on the acknowledgements page in the book.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    First edition copy of the book, personalized and signed by the artist, plus 2 - 8x10, signed & numbered, limited edition artist proofs of images printed in book. Images are hand printed, selenium toned silver gelatin prints, "bon á tirer" (good to print). Limited to an edition of 10 of any one image printed in book. You will be thanked by name on the acknowledgements page in the book.

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    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    First edition copy of the book, personalized and signed by the artist, plus limited edition 16x20 signed & numbered artist proof of any one image printed in book. Images are hand printed, selenium toned silver gelatin prints, "bon á tirer" (good to print). Limited to an edition of 5 of any one image. You will be thanked by name on the acknowledgements page in the book.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    First edition copy of book, signed by author, plus 2 limited edition 16x20 signed & numbered artist proofs of images printed in book. Images are hand printed, selenium toned silver gelatin prints, "bon á tirer" (good to print). Limited to an edition of 5 of any one image. You will be thanked by name on the acknowledgements page in the book.

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Funding period

- (30 days)