Richard Sawdon Smith is an internationally exhibited and award-winning photographer. He is a professor of photography & AIDS cultures, as well as head of the Arts & Media Department at London South Bank University. He was winner of the John Kobal Photographic Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery London 1997. He is a Board Member of The bookRoom Press and on the editorial panel of the Journal of Photography & Culture, a member of the Visual AIDS Archive, co-editor of "Langford's Basic Photography" (2007/2010) and "The Book is Alive!" (2013).
Richard has specialized in a body of work stretching back to the 1990s that deals with the experience of living with HIV. He has predominantly used himself as the model, not indicative as self-portraiture/biographical but as a source to explore more universal themes of identity and subjectivity around issues of illness /health.
His work can be viewed at his websites, www.aidscultures.com and www.richardsawdonsmith.com. A variety of books, journals and magazines have published his photographs and writings, such as "HIV in World Cultures" (2013), "Positive Pictures: Gay History" (2013) and "Basic Creative Photography 03" (2012). Recent shows include 2012' summer exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in Londonw and "The Anatomical Man," a solo show at Rise Berlin in the German capital; "Round Hole, Square Peg: Queer Identity in the 21st Century" at New York's Smart Cloths Gallery; "The Solitary Body: Self-Portraiture in Contemporary Photography," at the Swiss MACT/CACT Museo d'arte Contemporanea Ticino; and "Uncertain States 4" at London Metropolitan University's Bank Gallery, all in 2013.
In the Artist's Own Words...
"Eating the Ribbon" is a collaborative work with the Los Angeles photographer Albert J Winn. Both of us had been working independently exploring issues about the experience of living with HIV. Brought together by Visual AIDS, the New York-based organization, because of our similar outlook we started working together on a number of projects in 2007.
In part, we explore a cross-generational, cross-continent dialogue, the red ribbon becoming symbolic of what ties us together. The red ribbon was originally created by the Visual AIDS Artists' Caucus as a symbol of remembrance for those who had died of AIDS-related illnesses to visualize that lost and also as a tool to highlight the need for further action. We don't take the ribbon for granted but critically engage with its symbolism and use. The ribbon could be interpreted as a flow of blood, as life giver but also as carrier of disease and contamination.
The staging of digesting the ribbon leaves open interpretation of the action. It could represent a burden of the memory of so many loved ones lost; a personal memorial. Or the ribbon has become such a powerful symbol that the people it was intended to represent are not recognized. Have the figures in the photograph become defined solely by their illness? Has the ribbon become sign rather than substance? Does it highlight the fact that stigma around AIDS still exists or is it just another logo that drugs companies can stick on their advertising to suggest that they care?
It might be all of these things.