WORLD PREMIERING IN 2023
The most famous photo of AIDS, seen by a billion people, hides a powerful story of love, friendship, family and the circle of care. Discover the untold story of the Native American framed out of the black and white photograph that was taken in 1990, and subsequently used by Benetton in an advertising campaign. A virtual reality experience created by Queer Media UK premiering in 2023.
Journey through the AIDS hospice where the most famous photo ‘Face of AIDS’, which is one of TIME magazine’s top 100 images of the 20th Century, was taken and discover the FULL picture. Telling the story of those vital yet forgotten people, that gave care to those people facing their final moment in a story that has powerful themes of spiritual purpose, resilience and adventure. Therese & Peta: A Tale of Two-Spirits shines a light on the story of those who are framed out of the picture yet were instrumental in the famous photograph being taken. In 2019 Queer Media UK were awarded £20K Creative XR funding from the Arts Council, distributed by Digital Catapult, to develop this project into a working virtual reality prototype. In 2020 this project was selected for Sheffield International Documentary Festival’s Alternate Realities Talent Market where we pitched one to one to over 20 industry delegates. It was also selected to be showcased as a work in progress by Leipzig International Documentary Festival to continue building my extensive network of immersive connections. In 2021 the project received Arts Council England funding to research and develop the processes of 3D modelling, rigging and motion capture in collaboration with BOM and the University of Portsmouth.
Project Long Synopsis
In 1992 the clothing brand Benetton used a photo of a man dying from AIDS in a billboard marketing campaign to highlight the AIDS crisis that was happening and to give a human face to AIDS. The photo featured David Kirby on his death bed surrounded by his family and this colourised photo, that was previously published by Life magazine in black and white and taken by photographer Therese Frare, is the most famous image of AIDS, having been seen by a billion people worldwide.
Beside the bed in the photograph only visible by their hands is Peta, David’s caregiver who worked at the hospice and who was bi-racial and two-spirit transgender. Therese & Peta: A Tale of Two-Spirits is a virtual reality experience about Peta, forgotten by history and not included in the original image.
He is Native American and was two-spirit being gender fluid between male and female who struck up an intense friendship with Therese, who featured Peta as the subject of her Masters photography project. Numerous images taken by her, that have never seen by the public, include their visit back to Pine Ridge the reservation, on a motorbike, where Peta grew up, a road trip where Therese met his uncle, Alex Lunderman, who was the tribe’s medicine man.
They went shopping together, bought wigs and pink fluffy slippers, went clubbing, rode on his motorbike in the Mid-West, did the Native American pow wows, Sundance and sweat lodge ceremony all moments together that defined their lives.
Therese met Peta when she was pursuing her work on AIDS. Through many subsequent meetings, Therese befriended Peta, who was then an active AIDS caregiver. He was also what is known in the Native American Lakota culture as winkte a traditional third gender they regard with much reverence. Since 1990 the umbrella term two-spirit has been adopted and used more universally to describe traditional third genders in Native American culture. Peta was born to a white father and a Native American mother, and is a direct descendent of Red Cloud, who was an Oglala Lakota tribal chief, and the most photographed Native American of the 19th Century.
Peta’s full name is Petaigig Ichiwaiwanka, given to him during a ceremony in his native South Dakota, meaning keeper of fire, and his story is one of conflicted genders living with two-spirits. One that drove him from the reservation where he grew up and into the “white man’s society”. Living in San Francisco and attempting to “find” serenity, peace and a loving relationship. Over the years, he became HIV positive and cared with great empathy for those stricken and soon to die recognising in them his own mortality.
This is a story about adventure, friendship and roots as we first meet the two soul mates at Pater Noster hospice in Columbus, Ohio where the famous photograph was taken. We follow Therese and Peta back to his tribe, giving new life to photographs taken nearly thirty years ago of their epic road trip home to Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations, South Dakota, USA. It is a heartfelt immersive story about identity and those left out of history. Inspired by Carol Morley’s film Dreams of a Life, the VR stories Easter Rising by the BBC and Dear Angelica by Oculus Rift.
In an age of visual communication where our Instagram images can be seen by millions I was drawn to Peta’s story initially through the iconic image that defined the AIDS epidemic. The image that Benneton used in an advertising campaign 1992, that has since been seen by a billion people. I am inspired by stories about family and friendships and especially forgotten histories of those relationships. My journalistic intrigue was peaked when I learned that the hands featured in the advert are Peta’s, the caregiver whose intersectionality is powerful and timely, who has a mesmerising life story and an untold friendship without which this photo would never have happened. This piece is in VR as Peta finally gets to be the star of his own story mixing the original images of him by photographer Therese Frare, with an immersive look as we journey through his duality and his search for his roots, identity and acceptance.
Therese & Peta: A Tale of Two-Spirits – The team
Director, Creative Producer and Co-writer
Jamie Starboisky founded the Queer Media Festival, an annual event, in Manchester, England (2014-2019) as a celebration of LGBTQ storytelling in every form of media. Jamie is currently exploring the use and impact of mobile filmmaking, interactive transmedia and virtual reality in bringing the international LGBTQ community together through digital storytelling. Jamie’s projects explore the use of digital media to tell history and discuss the notion of who is missed out of history and who is included. His work often has themes and notions of identity, race, family, gender identity, sexuality, friendship, marginalised communities, queerness and forgotten history.
Jamie took part in Manchester International Festival’s Creative50 in 2017, a three-month training and development programme supporting aspiring and emerging creatives from Greater Manchester to experiment with new digital tools, technologies and platforms, with an emphasis on doing something new within their artistic practices. The piece Jamie created was an artist film about Mary Burns, partner of Frederich Engels, who was a Manchester born working class women, who has been forgotten by history as the person who navigated him through the slums of the city to research his study of the working class that would then inspire the Communist Manifesto.
Shannon Yee is an award-winning playwright and producer, based in Northern Ireland. Shannon’s perspectives as an immigrant, ethnic minority, queer artist with a disability living in NI are deeply embedded in her work. Her most recent work, Reassembled, Slightly Askew to immerse audiences in her first-hand experience of nearly dying and her subsequent acquired brain injury. Reassembled… received a 5-star review in The Stage (UK), and earned Shannon a Hospital Club h100 Theatre & Performance Award and Belfast Telegraph’s 2016 Woman of the Year Award in Arts. Reassembled… was part of Battersea Arts Centre’s ‘A Nation’s Theatre Festival’ (2016).
Previous works (film and/or digital multimedia)
2017: So I Can Breathe This Air; an immersive, verbatim walking tour collected from interviews with ethnic minority LGBT individuals living in NI (produced by The Rainbow Project & TheatreofplucK)
2016/15: Reassembled, Slightly Askew; an immersive interdisciplinary artwork experienced via headphones on a hospital bed about my acquired brain injury, (self-produced), ‘A Nation’s Theatre Festival’ (Battersea Arts Centre), The MAC (Belfast, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival), Down Arts Centre, Burnavon Arts Centre, Flowerfield Arts Centre, Island Arts Centre, Derry Playhouse, Lyric Theatre (Belfast), BAC’s UK-wide Collaborative Touring Network (8 festivals), SummerWorks Performance Festival (Toronto), Mt. Sinai Rehab Hospital (NYC).
Therese has been a visual communicator for over 25 years. At her core is a background as a newspaper photojournalist, which has imprinted on her a belief in the power of communications to educate, to enlighten, to tell the truth, and to be an agent for change. She is best known for her image “Final Moments,” which has become to be known as “the photo which changed the face of AIDS.” Therese currently works for Microsoft, as a project manager for Windows.com global website. Her team is involved with innovations, such as virtual reality, mixed reality and 3D imagery.
Previous work (film and/or digital multimedia)
Therese’s image was also recently included in Time magazine’s prestigious project “The Most Influential Images of All Time.” While Therese was pursuing her social documentary project on AIDS, she also was photographing a portrait documentary project on Peta Church. The project is called “Two Spirits,” and the images tell the very personal story of one person’s experience with gender fluidity, mixed raced ancestry, and the duality of being a caregiver and a client. These images are honest and emotional and are still relevant today. They have provided the inspiration for this project.
Lead Digital Artist/Developer
Andy Campbell is the Digital Director of UK-based arts/media charity One to One Development Trust and the founder/lead writer for Dreaming Methods, One to One’s award-winning in-house digital storytelling development studio. With over 20 years’ experience as a digital artist, writer and programmer, his recent work includes being lead developer of Inanimate Alice, an episodic work of digital fiction for young adults used extensively in multilingual education worldwide.