Ken Meeks, AIDS patient, three days before dying.- Alon Reininger (Contact Press)
I did not want to do just a story about Ken Meeks. Ken was a character in a bigger story. He knew that I was taking his picture in a broader context. It just happened that I took a picture of him in one particular situation that struck a raw nerve with a lot of people.- Alon Reninger
The work of Alon Reininger had a significant impact humanizing AIDS with the fist images published of American patients in Life magazine in 1986. You can see here several videos with an interview of Alon Reininger describing the documentation of people suffering AIDS. This image (winner of the Word Press Photo award in 1986) was selected by Photo District News magazine as one of the most important images of photojournalism in the period 1980-2000. American Photo magazine selected Alon Reininger as one of the underrated masters of photography. Today, 20 years after this image was published the AIDS pandemic remains one of the most important humanitarian catastrophes of our times (more on this in other posts in this blog and elsewhere).
(From American Photo): In 1986, Life magazine ran a series of pictures by Alon Reininger depicting the growing crisis of the AIDS epidemic. Until that time, AIDS, for many Americans, was simply a “gay disease,” an affliction affecting big cities like New York and San Francisco. But one of Reininger’s pictures—a portrait of AIDS patient Ken Meeks taken in 1986—gave the disease a frighteningly human dimension. Meeks died only three days after the picture was made, but his image went on to become an emblem of the epidemic.
Reininger ended up winning numerous awards for his AIDS work, including the World Press Premier Award.
In a sense, that story overshadowed everything else he’d ever done, which was a great deal. Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1947, Reininger got his start in photojournalism covering the 1973 Yom Kippur War for United Press International. In 1976 he became one of the founding members of the Contact Press Images agency. Over the years he has covered social and political unrest around the world, from southern Africa to Central America to China. He spent the 1990s working in California, covering social issues like immigration, crime, and education. Today he is based in Los Angeles.-American Photo magazine