All 3,000 AIDS posters held in the Wellcome Library’s AIDS poster collection have now been digitised, and are gradually going up online on Wellcome Images as they are catalogued, and as the Library’s rights-clearance procedure is carried out.
Photographing the collection has been an enlightening experience. Throughout the process I was particularly struck by the variety of ways in which different countries chose to approach their AIDS awareness campaigns and how they tailored the content to appeal to different social groups.
The photography itself was relatively straightforward, with the greatest challenge being the organisation of varying sizes of posters into efficient workflow batches, as sizes ranged from 21cm to over 2.5 metres. The type of media upon which the posters were printed also kept me on my toes, from highly reflective gloss finishes to almost rice paper-thin substrates, each requiring slightly different techniques.
From the perspective of a photographer the Wellcome’s AIDS poster collection, to me, represents a truly valuable resource as a means of tracking graphic design and photographic trends over the past three decades across many different countries and many different cultures. What makes it so interesting in this respect is that ultimately they were all working to the same brief – that of combating the spread of AIDS.
Author: Ben Gilbert
Image: Advertisement for The Naz Project to support Asian communities with AIDS/HIV. Wellcome Library ref: 666554i.