Over a period of six years I photographed tuberculosis patients in South Africa annually to find out what life held for them once they recovered from TB. The images are accompanied by handwritten testimonies by the people in the photographs sharing what they believe is necessary for a greater audience to know about their lives.
In 2006 the photographic exhibition Dialogues – Understanding Tuberculosis was launched. This was an intimate study looking at the perspective of people living with tuberculosis. The goal behind the project was to develop a better understanding of how TB is perceived in the public eye so that implementation of programs, testing and treatment could be done in a way that the public would respond to best.
The project has now developed to ask further questions, and for a curable disease with an increasing death rate the big one is: What happens after TB treatment? Retrospect is a five-year study that will be completed in 2011. It follows the lives of the fourteen TB participants from Dialogues and gives the participant an opportunity once a year to talk about what has transpired since the previous portrait. Especially in poverty-stricken areas TB is not the only challenge faced on a daily basis and hence it cannot be treated without attention being given to other social and health issues as well. The aim of this project is to gain a better understanding of the everyday life one who has or had TB lives. It is hoped that with this background information it will be easier to understand reasons behind defaulting, fear of testing, and re-infection. With clients being better understood, they can be treated more effectively and a culture of prevention installed to start curbing the infection rate.
The strength of Dialogues does not only lie in the documenting of the stories but also in the exhibiting of the work. It has been used in education programs in the communities where the work was photographed, advocated to policy and decision makers at international conferences and Parliament, and has been recognised as fine art in contemporary art galleries. In so doing it has assisted in educating, breaking stigma, and influencing development of TB resources. Retrospect is the all seeing eye to Dialogues and development in the fight against tuberculosis. Over the next few years all that we know of TB, its aftermath and the results of work done in the TB field will be reflected through the voices of those affected as they recall their everyday life.
This work was exhibited at princeton univeristy and opened with a panel discussion with director of human rights watch joseph amon