Nearly 15 years ago for a few weeks in 1993, photographer Gideon Mendel became a resident at London’s first AIDS ward — the Broderip — and at Charles Bell ward, both in London’s Middlesex Hospital where he photographed the patients as part of the Positive Lives project. The two wards were then among London’s very few AIDS wards at a time when the stigmatised illness quickly killed most of its sufferers for whom antiviral medication was not yet available.
Gideon’s resulting series The Ward follows the stories of four male patients, John, Steven, Ian and Andre. Strikingly sad in its tender intimacy, the monochromatic series pictures the four men surrounded by friends, families and lovers, hugging, chatting, holding hands and kissing. All four men died shortly after the photographs were taken.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Borderip’s opening by Princess Diana, and the launch of The Ward, which is being shown in the form of a new exhibition and book, published by Trolley Books. It charts Gideon’s experiences in the two wards in what was the chapel of The Middlesex Hospital. While the rest of the hospital was demolished back in 2005, the chapel, which is Grade II listed, remains, recently reopened as The Fitzrovia Chapel. Here, 14 images from The Ward will be shown from 5 November – 3 December on Wednesdays and Sundays.