John - Washington, D.C., United States
I was born with HIV twenty-three years ago. At the time my mother and father got together, my father was doing drugs. He contracted HIV and I was born with it. So I always knew I was sick. I didn’t really know what the sickness was, I just had to live my life and keep taking my medicine. That’s how I still see it now.
I was nineteen when my mom died and twenty when my dad died. I have a brother who is twenty-six and another brother who is twenty-five. We actually got closer when my mother passed away. Everybody sits in my room and we chat for a couple of hours, and then everybody goes about their business. That’s how it works.
I spent a lot of time nursing my mother. After she passed away, I was in shock. I picked up a camera and just started shooting. It was definitely a release. It was like my counseling session. Capturing beautiful things and moments in time is always priceless.
With my pictures, I am trying to make a statement that everyday life can be beautiful, that the things around you can be awesome. I burn incense to send blessings to my mother and father in heaven. That’s part of my Buddhist practice. (I’m a Rastafarian too.) God doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle, and I feel like God knew that I could handle it. I know He knows that my parents made a mistake and my father made the mistake of doing what he did, and I know that He forgave him for that. Having me gave my father an opportunity to do something good.
I want to photograph people and things that are unknown or unspoken. I want to get to those people whether they are in the United States or on the other side of the world.
When I was in school, I didn’t speak much. I didn’t really talk at all. I was so into the whole “being sick” thing, and not into living. I was just surviving. I feel like it’s time to live now.
Hopefully it takes me somewhere—I don’t know where—because only God, or Jah, as Rastafarians call Him, can decide that.