Hlabisa Portraits

South Africa (2001)

I was drawn to produce this set of portraits after becoming aware of the huge and growing numbers of orphans resulting from the HIV/Aids crisis in South Africa. The government has been at times both reluctant and slow to react to the crisis and the number of orphans continues to escalate alarmingly.

As a photographer, coming face to face with appalling conditions and human misery, one is forced to continually question one’s role and motivation when capturing images. Hovering always, is the moral question of whether one is exploiting the misery of others to achieve dramatic images or one is responding to a society in extreme circumstances. It is usually a bit of both, but I hope in these portraits I was able to achieve a level of compassion. I wanted to look past the terrifying statistics associated with Aids and capture a sense of the individual.

The portraits were taken in the Hlabisa District of KwaZulu-Natal in conjunction with Cotlands and its Home Based Care Project (Cotlands is a nationwide organisation caring for Aids orphans). Hlabisa has an abnormally high percentage of people suffering from HIV/Aids.

Cotlands, in partnership with the Hlabisa Hospital, operate a home-based care project in the area. A professional nurse and two locally trained home-care workers attend to the needs of children infected with HIV/Aids, as well as identify children who have been orphaned and supply this information to health and welfare departments.

This service provides valuable assistance to the Hlabisa community, however most of KwaZulu-Natal and many other rural areas in South Africa are without home-based care.