Gay Times Magazine - - Gideon Mendel’s The Ward - Words Priyesh Pa­tel

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 (trol­ley­ for £35.

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