This collection of over ninety photographs and their stories celebrates an "unsung army of great healers," caregivers of persons with AIDS. Herself infected with the HIV virus, mother and AIDS activist Mary Fisher chronicles painful, private, and precious moments of interaction between patients, families, lovers, friends, and "professionals," in home, hospital, clinic, and other settings (a women’s prison on Riker’s Island, a homeless shelter in Boston, a nursery in West Palm Beach). Interspersed with the photographs and commentary are excerpts from Fisher’s letters and addresses including her show-stopping televised speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention.


The participant-observer’s dilemma of intrusiveness and personal involvement is acknowledged, played out, and documented when Fisher withholds recording certain "holy moments," putting down her camera (even "[t]he clicking . . . was too loud") to comfort, cry, laugh, and, become personally involved. Her challenges do not mince words when she questions "How is it possible this late in the epidemic to have so few women in trials that we . . . cannot distinguish which symptoms are PMS and which are HIV--which belong to the virus, which to our hormones, and which to your drugs?" (p.141)

She admits to wanting physicians to emotionally identify with their patients: "When you tell me that my child’s cancer is back, I want your voice to break. When you tell my children they are orphans, I want you to hold them both until you all stop crying." (p. 131) Her photographs and her words capture the essences of the wounded healer, the beautiful gift of vulnerability and the self-as-medicine that only true human connection can provide.

See this database for excellent companion pieces to explore issues of therapeutic boundaries (e.g., stories in The Doctor Stories, Lessons from the Art, and Letters to a Young Doctor, by Richard Selzer; stories by William Carlos Williams such as The Girl with a Pimply Face (annotated by Woodcock, John A.), also annotated by Coulehan, Jack, Jean Beicke (annotated by Aull, Felice), also annotated by Moore, Pamela and Coulehan, Jack, and A Face of Stone; Cortney Davis’s poems, "What the Nurse Likes" and "Becoming the Patient" in The Body Flute; Edvard Munch’s paintings, We Real Cool, and An Abortion) as well as other photographic portraits of people living with and bereaved by AIDS (Nicholas Nixon’s People with AIDS, Billy Howard’s Epitaphs for the Living: Words and Images in the Time of AIDS, and Rosalind Solomon’s Miss Rosie)


Fisher was asked to remove from her "Messages" exhibit in the Senate’s Russel Building Rotunda, a coffin-like construction whose scroll bore the inscription "Let us unite in life, rather than death." Her response to their outrage at her sculpture: "Senators vote on Articles of War, capital punishment, and abortion, but thought that after hundreds of thousands of American AIDS deaths, a symbol of death was ’inappropriate’ in the halls of our national assembly." (p. 115)


Moyer Bell

Place Published

Wakefield, R.I.



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