Opening of ‘Epitaphs’ exhibition draws large crowd

Billy Howard’s Epitaphs for the Living is a moving tribute to folks who suffer from AIDS/HIV.

Despite heavy rains, a June 22 event marking the opening of the Billy Howard’s Epitaphs for the Living exhibition drew over 100 attendees. Held in the Jones Room of the Woodruff Library, the event featured a conversation between curator Randy Gue and Billy Howard, an Atlanta photographer who began photographing people with HIV/AIDS in 1987.

Guests were able to view the exhibition for 30 minutes prior to the event, which featured a touching discussion and Q&A with Howard. “It was one of the most moving programs I’ve been to, and it highlighted the importance of the work Emory is doing to eradicate AIDS,” said Leslie Wingate, Director of Campus and Community Relations.

Howard recounted how the project began before he fully knew what to do with the photos and stories. Support from the people living with AIDS compelled Howard to capture these portraits before the subjects’ lives were taken from them.

The stories Billy Howard told were powerful, from a baby born with AIDs, to a woman in her 40s who contracted the virus through a blood transfusion, to an African-American who struggled with being judged by his race and sexual orientation, to a mother talking about what her son went through with the disease.

As Howard recalled how he built relationships with each person he photographed, he talked about the pain of knowing that all but one of his subjects had passed away. It was devastating for him to lose so many friends, and there was strong emotion in the crowd as well.

“As I walked through the Schatten Gallery and read each story, I was struck by the palpability of the tragedy. It made me wish I could have been there for them,” said Maya Cody, LITS events manager. The exhibit is on view until September 22.

Special thanks go out to the Exhibitions Team who put the exhibit together.

To learn more about the exhibit, go to

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