GIDEON MENDEL’S THE WARD.
When Princess Diana shook hands with AIDS patients in Middlesex Hospital without gloves, in 1987, she was the first person in the public eye to do so. The tabloids continued to roar, but her act of kindness and compassion dispelled the erroneously-held belief that the disease could be spread by touch alone.
Fitzrovia Chapel was home to the first AIDS ward in London, the Broderip Ward, and is the only remaining memory of this hospital. 30 years later, The Ward by Gideon Mendel is a fitting tribute to the nurses, patients and families who passed through its rooms and corridors.
In 1993, as part of the “Positive Lives” project, Gideon Mendel entered both Broderip and Charles Bell Wards to photograph its inhabitants. The subjects show virility and defiance; their loved ones show pride and unconditional love; and the staff show compassion and loyalty. In a time when contracting HIV is still stigmatised, and few still feel comfortable to come out as positive, “The Ward” serves as a reminder of our humanity.
In Mendel’s book, what is most amazing is the intimacy between partners embracing their lovers, devoted parents at the feet of their children’s bed and caring nurses treating them with adoration. These photographs, are a reminder of the flurry of emotions that rushed through these wards -- not only those of sadness, but of happiness and joy.
For many, Fitzrovia Chapel was their last stop before they passed and Gideon’s thoughtful, emotional and compassionate photos capture these special moments forevermore. The Ward, Gideon Mendel. Signed copy of the book available online (trolleybooks.myshopify.com) for £35.