Refuge Exhibition … The Invisibles

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The UK AIDS Memorial Quilt Exhibition

We dined at Pizza Express before walking to the Refuge Bar at the Kimpton Clocktower Hotel.

They were hosting an exclusive exhibition displaying digital prints of the UK AIDS Memorial Quilts in memory of the lives lost during the AIDS pandemic. The UK AIDS Memorial Quilt is a precious artefact and a unique document of social history. Each of the panels commemorates lives lost to the AIDS pandemic during the 80s and 90s. It is a public naming of loved ones lost, and also a memorial for the many who died and went unnamed.

It is part of an international movement that sought to raise awareness of the impact of the AIDS pandemic and ensure that these lives would never be forgotten. This exhibition is a call to action to challenge HIV stigma and support those who are living with HIV today.

The stories told, the lives lost and the commitment to remembrance are poignant and important. As we take a moment to reflect, it’s also vital that we look forward with hope because HIV has changed since the time the quilts were made.

Today, with early diagnosis and treatment, people living with HIV can expect to live a normal life span. People living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on during sex. Undetectable equals Untransmissable or U=U.

We need to work to ensure that everyone knows their HIV history and equally importantly, that HIV is a manageable illness now and how they can play their role in knowing the facts and tackling stigma.

This panel is dedicated to all women lost to AIDS or who act as carers and whose lives and love has yet to be named. It also honours a friend’s mother who died with AIDS in 1985. She nurtured him and brought him up. They were both proud of him being gay. When she discovered that she was HIV positive and developed AIDS he in turn gave her the support she needed as she negotiated a series of AIDS-related illnesses. It drew them closer together.

More photos can be seen here.

The Invisibles: Moving Vintage Photos of LGBT Couples in the Early 20th Century

Any form of excess can usually be traced to the seed of a basic human longing. Before photography turned into excessive “aesthetic consumerism,” long prior to the narcissistic golden age of the selfie, it was a miraculous medium that granted one simple, fundamental human wish — the desire to be seen and, in the act of seeing, to be understood.

Perhaps that is why photography, in its dawning decades, had a particularly poignant role for individuals and groups who were largely invisible to society. It was the role photography played for the LGBT community between the time of the medium’s invention and the first-ever Pride parades as it came to document, and validate by making visible, the love of LGBT+ couples — love reserved not only for such famous lovers as Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, Oscar Wilde and Sir Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, and Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas, but also experienced by a great many ordinary men and women alike.

That’s precisely what French screenwriter and director Sébastien Lifshitz explores in The Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride, a remarkable collection of archival photographs — sometimes poignant, sometimes playful, invariably tender — of gay and lesbian couples privately celebrating their love in the early twentieth century.

Each couple gets to redefine love, and these are some humble and humbling, beautifully human, immeasurably yet quietly courageous redefinitions.


For Lifshitz, the project began somewhat serendipitously: As a long time collector of vintage amateur photos, he chanced upon a photo album that belonged to two elderly women, “very bourgeois, very ‘old France.’” It didn’t take him long to realise that they were in a lifelong lesbian relationship. He found himself fascinated by such family albums by openly gay couples and was surprised by the freedom and happiness they exhibited in those photos, despite living in eras of extreme social intolerance toward LGBT+ people.

Looking back over the first half of the twentieth century, Lifshitz set out to interview gay women and men born between the two World Wars, seeking to understand what life was like for them.

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