Look Closer is a photo series by OZY that encourages readers to see beyond a seemingly normal photo. Hover over the circles to explore the photo more deeply.
There were more than 44,000 individual panels in the quilt, weighing more than 10,000 pounds.
The quilt was often the only opportunity survivors had to remember and honor the lives of their loved ones. Many who died of AIDS-related illnesses didn’t have funerals because of the social stigma early on. In fact, some funeral homes and cemeteries even refused to accept the bodies of the deceased.
Look Closer is a new photo series by OZY that encourages readers to see beyond a seemingly normal photo. Hover over the circles to explore the photo more deeply.
Look Closer: The Worst Rave Ever?
The media has a magical way of reflecting us back to us, looking cooler, hipper and younger than when we left the house. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in recent demonstrations that are very clearly not your parents’ demonstrations, as they now routinely involve such staples as masks and umbrellas in Hong Kong, childrens’ song serenades in Lebanon and, as pictured here, laser pointers in Chile.
Laser pointers, driven by the ease of ownership — in the United States they can be bought at truck stops for a pittance — and their ability to not only irk and annoy but also to create real chaos when pointed at the eyes of a hovering helicopter pilot, for example, seem to be de rigueur this riot season. It’s a season marked by protests against social inequity, and against the state’s heavy-handed response, as has been the case in Chile, where protesting the policies of President Sebastián Piñera has resulted in demonstrators being blinded by metal balls.
Which is where things get … paradoxical. Lasers from laser pointers disrupt drones and cop cameras. When pointed at various body parts, they’re fairly harmless. Except when they’re pointed into someone’s eyes. Which is something that can’t be said for metal balls, which will hurt when fired from a gun no matter where they hit you.
And maybe most significantly? Metal balls don’t look nearly as cinematic as the arc of green or red lasers across the face of interpersonal political conflict.
Photographs by Pablo Sanhueza/Reuters, Getty
This could be Washingtonians standing beside a giant board game on the National Mall. But look beyond a glance and you’ll see that the spectators are gathered around the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt on a crisp October day in 1996. The expansive, colorful AIDS Memorial Quilt — with more than 44,000 panels weighing over 10,000 pounds — was designed to be an eye-catching tool for a national prevention campaign that portrayed the humanity behind the statistics. The idea for the project was hatched in 1985 by activist Cleve Jones and other volunteers during a candlelight march in remembrance of the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
In more ways than one, 1996 was an inflection point. It was the first year since the epidemic started that saw the AIDS incidence rate and deaths decline. In the same year, Time magazine Man of the Year was granted to AIDS researcher Dr. David Ho. The doctor was a pioneer in the use of drug “cocktails,” or combinations, to fight the virus. At the time, 23 million people worldwide were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS, and more than 6 million people had already died.
“When the history of this era is written, it is likely that the men and women who turned the tide on AIDS will be seen as true heroes of the age,” Time wrote about Dr. Ho. By 2017, more than two decades later, nearly 37 million people had HIV/AIDS worldwide, according to UNAIDS.
Today, remembrance and commitment to LGBTQ rights are no less pressing. Pride Month, which commemorates the Stonewall riots of 1969 in Manhattan, is simultaneously a time for resistance and celebration. Among those both within and outside the LGBTQ community, this month evokes an intentional remembrance of decades of hard-fought progress that LGBTQ activists have made in demanding equal rights in American society. At the same time, it’s a reminder that democracy requires the active participation of all — and that the battle for equality is neither over nor won.
Photograph by Shayna Brennan/AP
The idea for the quilt was hatched by activist Cleve Jones during the candlelight march in remembrance of the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
The first display of the quilt was in 1987, in Washington, D.C., and it was displayed again in 1996 to be visited by President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton. It was shown again at the time of the XIX International AIDS Conference in 2012.
Nonlethal weapons like rubber bullets, tear gas and metal balls — tools designed to control, incapacitate or pacify — have yet to be shown to be any more effective at de-escalating situations or at dispersing crowds than nonlethal weapons, specifically laser pointers, used by protesters.
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The Arab Spring was sparked by the public suicide of a Tunisian fruit vendor who had been hassled by state officials. In Chile, a long-simmering discontent with health care costs, poorly funded education and other social inequalities boiled over when fares were raised on Santiago’s public transportation.
Has there been a, dare we say, prettier protest tool than the laser? Answers on a postcard, please.
Look Closer: Rugs, Giant Board Game, or Something Far More Poignant?
Another force-projection threat that many of the protesters are probably aware of: Laser light pointers connected to guns do not look vastly different from laser light pointers not connected to guns. Meaning you might not know the difference until it is way too late.
By Eugene Robinson