Cover Stories: A Photojournalist's Journey

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Science  13 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6091, pp. 125
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6091.125

Cover stories offer a look at the story behind the art on the cover: who made it, how it got made, and why.

Malcolm Linton

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Joshua Alexander, by Malcolm Linton

See the special section in this issue

This week, for our special issue on HIV/AIDS in the United States, our cover features Joshua Alexander, a young gay black man from the South; a representative of the United States' largest and fastest-growing population of HIV-infected people.

As with five previous Science covers on HIV/AIDS, this one features photography by the New York–based British photojournalist Malcolm Linton. “It’s difficult to find people who are prepared to be on the cover with information saying that they’re HIV-positive,” Malcolm notes. He should know; for more than 12 years, along with contributing correspondent Jon Cohen, he has traveled to India, China, Southeast Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Americas, photographing hundreds of people to help document the disease's impact around the world and the progress we've made in fighting it.

“When we began covering it, HIV was pretty much a death sentence for most people," says Malcolm. "Now, provided you take the drugs, for most people, they can lead very normal lives.”

Malcolm's work, both earlier as a text journalist and later as a photographer and videographer, has taken him to war zones, political upheavals, and disaster settings; from the breakup of the former Soviet Union to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. But, partly as a result of his work on HIV/AIDS around the world, and because of his desire to be able to do more to help in the tough situations he often documents, he's recently embarked on a very different journey: He has started training as a nurse. And he sees that as a natural evolution.

“I think nursing and photography—at least my kind of photography—are often quite similar in approach,” he says. “In both I'm trying to figure out what's going on with someone without imposing myself on them. I want to understand how they're feeling. When I'm taking pictures, I try to capture it, and when I'm nursing, I try to respond to it by giving the right kind of care.”

In both nursing and photography, he says, “there's someone else who leads—the patient or the subject—and the key is to follow and anticipate. Both activities are a partnership.”

In scientific publishing, it's all too easy to focus on the analytical details—he epidemiology, the virology, the genetics—and miss the human element. Featuring individuals on our HIV/AIDS special issue covers helps to remind us all of one reason why we do what we do: to effect change that helps people.

—Yael Fitzpatrick, Art Director, Science

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