David Kirby (activist)
David Lawrence Kirby (December 6, 1957 - May 5, 1990 ) was an HIV/AIDS activist, and the subject of a photograph taken at his deathbed by Therese Frare. The image was published in Life magazine, which called it the "picture that changed the face of AIDS".
The image shows Kirby, near death, a vacant look in his face, and his father holding his son's head in a moment of grief. Other members of Kirby's immediate family are seated next to him. Life featured the image in its November 1990 issue, after which it gained first national and then international attention. The picture was later used by Benetton in an advertising campaign, with the permission of Kirby's family, who felt that its use would carry the message of how devastating the disease was.
Kirby acquired HIV while living in California. Estranged from his family, he contacted them to tell them of his HIV status, and to ask if he could return home to Stafford, a small village in Monroe County, Ohio. On returning to Ohio, Kirby used his personal situation as a springboard for public education, and met with local newspapers in an attempt to break what he regarded as the silence of south eastern Ohio towards HIV and AIDS. Kirby also undertook his activism because of the treatment he received at local hospitals, which were unaccustomed to dealing with HIV at the time. Kirby and his family regarded his treatment, which included routine doctor and nurse visits with medical personnel dressed in infectious disease attire as inhumane and unprofessional. As his illness progressed, Kirby was met with hostility from hospital personnel and support staff.
Ultimately, Kirby and his family felt it would be better for him to be moved to the Pater Noster House, a facility established to provide medical care and long term care to HIV and AIDS patients in Columbus, Ohio, where staff and volunteers were more educated on the facts and transmission methods of HIV. Pater Noster could therefore provide better care for patients, and had support programs for their families.
Therese Frare's relationship to David Kirby
While a patient at Pater Noster, Kirby established a relationship with Therese Frare, a college student from Ohio University. Frare was at Pater Noster for college project credit shadowing a caregiver, named Peta, who was providing care to Kirby. Peta, who self-identified as transgender, was also HIV positive and formed a strong bond of trust with Kirby and Kirby's family. Because of the relationship between Peta and Frare, Kirby became familiar with Frare. He said that Frare could photograph him in his declining condition, as long as the pictures would not be used for profit.
Frare was with Peta when co-workers contacted Peta with the news that Kirby's condition was growing worse and that his impending death was expected. Kirby's family invited Frare into the room to record the final moments of his life and their grief at his passing. The family said that they hoped some good would come of the images Frare took of the final moments of their son's life.
When published by Life, the image shocked the national conscience in the United States with its graphic imagery. While the public knew that AIDS killed, many only knew of its effects in the abstract. AIDS was still thought to be a "gay" disease and much of populace was relatively uninformed about the disease. The image also helped the greater public to connect to the family's grief at losing their son. Life received complaints about the graphic nature of image, but felt that it was in line with the magazine's mission of telling a story of life and death through visual imagery.
1992 Benetton advertising campaign
Following the Life publication, the Kirby family allowed the clothing company United Colors of Benetton to use the image in an 1992 advertising campaign, feeling that its story would reach a world wide audience. Fallout from the campaign came from many sources, including the Catholic Church which felt that the image was an inappropriate allusion to the historical imagery of The Virgin Mary comforting Jesus Christ after the crucifixion.
In 2012, Frare told Life that David's father Bill Kirby expressed the family's feelings on the use of the picture by Benetton when he told her "Listen, Therese. Benetton didn’t use us, or exploit us. We used them. Because of them, your photo was seen all over the world, and that’s exactly what David wanted."
- "Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1932, 1938-1944, & 1958-2007, database on-line". Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Retrieved December 1, 2012.
- Cosgrove, Ben. "Behind the Picture: The Photo That Changed the Face of AIDS". Life. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- "1990 2nd Prize General News". World Press Photo. Retrieved December 1, 2012.