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ISSUE 115 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/8/2002

Camera’s view of an epidemic

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 8, 2002

On Mar. 5 Brian Peterson, a photographer from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and nurse Cari Truesdale presented "Testing the Human Spirit," a six-year photo documentary, capturing the story of one Minnesota family struggling with AIDS.

Peterson’s story revealed that AIDS had not only on the family, but on the lives of those who were impacted by its journey.

In 1991, Peterson was assigned to photograph three-year old Candace Simon, a patient at the University of Minnesota hospital, who was infected with the HIV virus. Her father Doug contracted the virus through a blood transfusion in 1983. The virus invaded Candace’s mother Nancy as well. Brothers Brian and Eric were spared.

For the next six years, Peterson and his camera became a normal part of the Simon’s routine. His photographs portrayed the story. “As the years passed, I relied more on my instincts, rather than planned events,” Peterson said. “The pictures seemed to come through me. I was merely the interpreter.”

The emotional journey Peterson and Truesdale explored revealed the harsh realities of sickness. "It’s not just a story about AIDS, it’s a story about courage, hope and life" Peterson said.

Truesdale finished the presentation by reading excerpts from her journal, sharing the spiritual journey she witnessed Candace and Nancy take, as a nurse and friend, as they both embraced death.

The presentation was sponsored by the AIDS Honor House and the Family and Social Service Department. Sarah Schuurman ‘'02, who coordinated the event, was "struck by how close the story was to us. AIDS is separate from life on the Hill,” she said. “But here is a small town, Vesselly, Minn., similar to Northfield and a family, like many of the families in Northfield, who became the victims of a fatal disease. AIDS is a reality anywhere."

Schuurman also thought the story allowed students to see how one’s career can be used for social change. Peterson and Truesdale are using their careers as "a medium," Schuurman said, to keep the HIV issue alive on campus.

Peterson has received numerous awards for his work. He has earned the Minnesota Press Photographer of the Year award nine times, the Robert F. Kennedy Award for photojournalism, the Canon Photo Essay Award from the National Press Photographers Association and the Medal for Photojournalism from the National Society of Professional Journalists.

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