Brooklyn, NY-based photographer Francesco Di Benedetto is using his camera to tell the stories of dozens of gay and queer men, including Black gay men impacted by the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic in America, and the impact of PrEP on curbing new diagnosis in “And So It Happened—” a photographic essay and Di Benedetto’s artistic contribution towards the fight to educate the masses about HIV/AIDS and to eradicate HIV stigma.
The Calabria, Italy native who moved to New York City in 2012 on an artist visa with his husband, and is currently being impacted by Trump-era immigration policies while pursuing his green card, tells Living Out Loud 2.0 that the three-year project, which began on Instagram and is self-funded, was something he felt compelled to do to create awareness.
“My project highlights stories of people living with HIV and people on PrEP because openness is key to tolerance and no one should have to hide—whatever their status,” said Benedetto in a statement released to 2.0.
The LGBTQ+ people featured in “And So It Happened” represent three of the nation’s most populous cities and LGBTQ+ enclaves—New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
In an interview with 2.0, Di Benedetto spoke about securing people from diverse backgrounds living with HIV and on PrEP for the project.
“Part of my research to find people were contacting organizations that are specific for people living with HIV or the gay community. They’d send e-mails to their members to see if there was any interest in the project and then they’d put me in contact with them,” he said.
Di Benedetto also says he was able to utilize popular gay dating apps such as Grindr and Scruff to introduce the project to potential interview subjects, which proved to be successful.
About the title, he says, the photo essay “looks at the fact that something happened as a starting point for a broader and more articulate discussion. What happens next?”
Check out the images and stories of Black gay men featured in “And So It Happened,” below.