Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01



Doing it 'Wright': Photographer Takes Aim at Community
by Danielle Braff

This article shared 5699 times since Sat Nov 1, 2003
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

His camera flashed hundreds of times as he photographed men, women and children living with HIV who would soon be exposed in a traveling Midwestern exhibit featuring people living with the virus. But his cheerful mood didn't dim, even after capturing their pain with his lens.

Forty-nine percent of Chicago-area AIDS cases reported in 2001 resulted from men having unprotected sex with men. As a gay man, Israel Wright, 49, of Rogers Park has seen more than his share of friends die from AIDS. He said taking photographs of strangers living with HIV was nothing compared with watching the physical disintegration of those he loves dying.

'I've been involved in the AIDS crisis for years,' he said. 'By the time this [ assignment ] came along, this was just another person with the virus.'

Wright is one of three photographers who embarked on the project to take photographs of Midwesterners living with HIV. He worked in conjunction with the other photographers and writers to tell the verbal and physical stories of about 100 people living with their illnesses. The pictures were combined with the stories, and currently appear in two books in addition to traveling in exhibits throughout the Midwest.

Wright calmly flipped through the pages of one of the books and candidly told the stories of the people he was hired to photograph.

'That was the best I could get from her—she didn't want to smile,' Wright said, pointing at a Faces of AIDS photograph he took of Debbie Mata, 24. Mata's young, pudgy face challenges the viewer to look past her glare and into her sad eyes.

Mata said she thinks she was about 18 when she contracted HIV from her first boyfriend, who moved to Mexico without a goodbye after she told him that she had the virus. She agreed to let Wright photograph her because she wants people to see how easy it is for anyone to contract HIV.

'Being a Latina background, I thought it would be a good idea—so they could see that I'm young, and it could happen to anybody,' Mata said.

The exhibit 'shows that this affects people from all walks of life,' said Roslyn Davis of Rogers Park, who appears in the exhibit although she does not have HIV. However, her son, Bryan Keith Davis, died of AIDS in 1996 when he was 31. 'Maybe one of these days people will get over the fact that it's not about who you are,' Davis said. 'It's about what you do to put yourself at risk.'

However, some people in Faces of AIDS did not put themselves at risk. Anne Hummert of St. Louis was a virgin before she was gang raped the night before her 27th birthday.

'When I'm alone at night, and it's just my cat, I'm a coward. I can't hide the tears, I can't hide the anger, I can't hide the frustration. My poor cat has to see it all,' Hummert said in one of the Faces of AIDS books.

Doug Birkenhuer of Lakeview was assigned to take the photograph of Hummert, a large woman with a small AIDS ribbon limply hanging from her chest. Birkenhuer was accustomed to taking headshots for actors before he was hired to do one-third of the photographs for Faces of AIDS.

'Illusions are what my photography had been about,' he said. ' [ Faces of AIDS ] was about making it real rather than the illusion.'

Wright never had the opportunity to let illusion be a part of his photography or his life.

The second oldest of 10 children living in Ohio, Wright had always wanted a camera, but his family could not afford him the luxury. So when he was 11, he saved promotional Bazooka bubble gum wrappers and eventually traded them in for a camera.

He loved his camera, but did not devote his career to photography just yet.

Wright began studying at Ohio State University, but ran out of money after just one semester. He got a job at a factory to make enough money to return to school, but he ended up getting his arm tangled in one of the machines, leading to the amputation of his left arm.

Shortly after, he followed his minister father to Chicago, where he got another job at a factory. But he realized that things were not going to be easy for him.

'I would go to companies for a job, and they would tell me that they didn't want me 'cause I was disabled,' he said.

Eventually, Wright got various jobs in banking, a field he stayed in for the next 20 years, which he described as 'the most thankless jobs that I've ever experienced.' While working at the banks, he took night classes at Loyola University, where he eventually got a degree in managerial accounting.

It didn't help. Wright finally gave up and returned to his first love, his camera, and started shooting for the Outlines [ now Windy City Times ] newspaper. Many of his favorite photographs are events dealing with sexuality, such as the AIDS Walk and the International Mr. Leather competition.

'My mother says I came out when I was four. I guess I've always been gay,' Wright said, speaking proudly about his sexuality. While both his parents are ministers, Wright prefers to stay away from religion because he said that religions look for a way to 'cure' homosexuality.

'I never went to a homosexual training school,' he said sarcastically.

For more information on Israel Wright, visit .

The Faces of AIDS exhibit travels throughout the Midwest. For more information, visit, or e-mail Jim Pickett, project manager for Faces of AIDS at .

The 'Faces of AIDS Book' is available through the Chicago Department of Public Health.

This article shared 5699 times since Sat Nov 1, 2003
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

MCA announces new curatorial leadership 2021-11-18
- The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) announces the appointments of two new leaders to its curatorial team—Rene Morales, as the James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator; and Jamillah James, as Manilow Senior Curator. Morales and James ...

Gay News

Steppenwolf opens Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center 2021-11-04
- On Nov. 2, Steppenwolf Theatre Company opened its new 50,000-square-foot theater building and education facility, the Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center. Designed by architect Gordon Gill FAIA of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill ...

Gay News

THEATER 'A Michael Martin Tribute' Nov. 11-28 2021-10-27
- Curious Theatre Branch will host a three-week celebration of the solo performance monologues of the late Michael Martin, curated by Kelly Anchors. A Michael Martin Tribute will take place Nov. 11-28 at Pride Arts Center, 4139 ...

Gay News

Mayor Lightfoot, DCASE reveal more fall, holiday event details 2021-10-22
--From a press release - CHICAGO—Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) today announced more details for DCASE fall and holiday traditions as Chicago's vital arts and culture scene continues to safely and fully ...

Gay News

ATTRACTIONS Pizza pop-up, WNDR, Wrightwood 2021-10-22
- —Rewired's pizza pop-up: Rewired Pizza Cafe & Bar, 1102 W. Thorndale Ave., is getting in on the Halloween fun by paying homage to classic restaurant chains and "dressing up" as owner Daniel Barat's favorite pizza chain: ...

Gay News

Alphawood chooses LGBTQ+ individual to head foundation 2021-10-20
- Alphawood Foundation Chicago announced Chirag G. Badlani as its newest executive director, effective Nov. 8. Badlani succeeds Jim McDonough, who retired this month after leading the foundation since 2012 and who will remain Alphawood's legal counsel ...

Gay News

Portrait series 'Still Searching' highlights missing Black women, children 2021-10-19
--From a press release, video below - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. On Friday, Oct. 22, 2021 from 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Damon Lamar Reed, Nicole So Random, and 345 Art Gallery will collaborate to present Still Searching Art Exhibition at 345 Art Gallery in Chicago, ...

Gay News

3Arts awards nearly $1M to women artists, artists of color, Deaf, disabled artists 2021-10-18
--From a press release - CHICAGO, IL (OCTOBER 18, 2021)—3Arts, the Chicago-based nonprofit grantmaking organization, will award Chicago artists with nearly $1 million in unrestricted cash grants during the 14th annual 3Arts Awards, taking place ...

Gay News

LGBT History Month: '40s and '50s instant photography gave LGBT people 'Safe/Haven' 2021-10-15
- Two men dressed in drag for a tea party, and two women cuddled up at the beach. Today these might be benign photographs but, in the early 1950s, they were memories shuttered away from public view. ...

Gay News

ART Contemporary yet timeless exhibition 'Young, Gifted and Black' arrives at Gallery 400 2021-10-13
- To be a Black art collector is to stand on the shoulders of a proud lineage. Throughout history, Black patrons have supported Black artists when nobody else did. Bernard Lumpkin—a New York City-based art patron, educator ...

Gay News

ART Van Gogh balloon celebrates installation's extension to Feb. 6 2021-10-11
- Following a maiden flight in Toronto to herald the return of the city's "Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit," Lighthouse Immersive's Vincent van Gogh hot-air balloon made its way to Goebbert's Farm, in the Kane County village of ...

Gay News

THEATER REVIEW Songs for Nobodies 2021-10-07
- Title: Songs for Nobodies. Playwright: Joanna Murray-Smith At: Northlight Theatre at the North Shore Center for the Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd. Tickets: $30-$89. Runs through: Sunday, Oct. 31 You won't find their names in the history ...

Gay News

Chicago Inclusion Project offers anti-racism workshops for arts organizations 2021-10-05
--From a press release - Chicago, IL—The staff of The Chicago Inclusion Project is excited to launch a new workshop and continuum developed by staff members Jessica Vann and Arti Ishak. The workshop, entitled "Being Anti-Racist: An Active Action," is designed ...

Gay News

ART Nick Cave, Bob Faust to unveil 'Rapt on the Mile' on Michigan Avenue 2021-10-04
- The Magnificent Mile has recently installed a monumental, multi-story public art installation entitled "Rapt on The Mile" that renowned artists (and couple) Nick Cave and Bob Faust created. The mural, which now wraps the 679 N. ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Queer/Art,' sports items, Kevin Bacon, Indya Moore 2021-10-03
- Queer|Art—New York City's home for the creative and professional development of LGBTQ+ artists—announced the fall season of Queer|Art|Film, returning in person through Dec. 13, a press release noted. The line-up ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.