Monday, February 28, 2011
In 1993, photographer Darcy Padilla met 19 year old Julie. At the time, Julie was living with her boyfriend Jack in a hotel with their 8 day old daughter. Both Julie and Jack were HIV positive. Through the next 18 years, Padilla photographed the life of Julie. The Julie Project is a collection of these photographs with some documents taken from Julie's life. Padilla intermittently narrates the photos with her experiences and conversations with Julie.
After leaving the abusive relationship she had with Jack, Julie wandered from hotel to hotel with her daughter Rachel. She had another child Tommy and lived in a shelter for some time. She eventually lost custody of both of her children when her live in boyfriend abused them. She had two more children who were taken away due to her testing positive for opiates.
In 2005 Julie was contacted by family who had been looking for her for years and she moved to Alaska. Her illness continued to progress and she had to be hospitalized.
In 2008, Julie gave birth to a fifth child, Elyssa, who she was allowed to keep custody of. She and her boyfriend Jason lived in a house with no running water or electricity.
Over the next two years, Julie's health worsened. She enrolled in hospice on Sept 7 and died Sept 27, 2010.
Through her 18 year photo documentary, Padilla wasn't just a casual observer to Julie's life. She became a close friend and spent a lot of time with her at the end of her life. Her photos are dramatic and at times gruesome and depressing. But they are a very real look at living in poverty with a life limiting illness. Below is a statement by Padilla about what motivated the Julie Project:
My initial motivation for Julie’s story was to document one woman’s struggle, to live with poverty and AIDS.
After losing custody of Rachael, Tommy, Jordan, Ryan and Jason Jr., it made me think about them. I wondered if Julie’s children would understand the depths of her poverty, the decision of their mother to give them up for adoption.
Julie’s children are going to be adults someday. Who are they going to ask about what happened? I want to be able to tell them her story in case Julie is not alive.
I do not think Julie has much time left.
The purpose of the project is to take the disparate arguments about welfare, poverty, family rights, AIDS, drug and sexual abuse by looking at one person’s life, Julie.
My hopes for the project is not to just tell her story for us to understand but for Rachael, Tommy, Jordan, Ryan, Zach, and Elyssa to hear, someday.
Julie’s story matters and should make a difference to us the viewer in our understanding of the fractured world that many poor people struggle to exist in.
As a friend said, "I realize this type of story plays out constantly in the world for many, many families. The pieces slip away or no one cares to remember the details. We see the summation of cause and effect in a homeless face on the street every day. It can be too complicated, uncomfortable and painful to ask why."
I hope you can’t stop thinking about Julie’s story, I hope it makes you feel. I hope it makes you look at the world differently.
Thanks to Lyle for sending me this link.