A new exhibition and a second edition of a book of photographs capturing the patients, staff and visitors to the Middlesex Hospital’s Aids wards is revealed this week at the Fitzrovia Chapel.
In 1993 Gideon Mendel spent a number of weeks photographing the Broderip and Charles Bell wards as part of the ten year anniversary for the Terrence Higgins Trust.
The Broderip was the first dedicated Aids ward in London, and was opened in 1987 by Princess Diana.
The Middlesex Hospital closed in 2005 and was demolished shortly after. The Grade II* listed Hospital Chapel is the only remaining building and stands metres away from where the original photographs were taken.
The original exhibition and the first edition of the book was revealed at the Fitzrovia Chapel in November 2017.
In this new exhibition, The Ward Revisited, Gideon Mendel has produced a new large-screen video installation of many previously unseen images and contact sheets, with a specially composed soundtrack, which focusses on the stories of four patients John, Andre, Stephen and Ian.
“All the patients I met, many of whom were young, gay men, were facing the terrifying prospect of an early and painful death. John, Andre, Stephen and Ian all died in the months after the pictures were taken,” says Mendel.
“They were some of the unlucky ones, who became sick just before life-saving antiretroviral treatments became available. Considering the extreme levels of stigma and fear that existed back then, their decision to allow themselves to be photographed, alongside their lovers, families and friends, was an act of considerable bravery.
“The photographs that I made in this short period have had their own journey over the thirty years since I took them and it has become clear that despite the passing of so much time they still speak deeply to many people. As the period they document recedes into history, interest in them seems to keep growing,” he says.
Accompanying the film of images are recent interviews, filmed in the chapel, of people that also appear in the original photographs — family and friends of the four patients and medical staff on the ward.
They include Patsy, the mother of John, Sarah and Hannah, the sister in law and niece of Stephen, Dr Rob Miller (now also a trustee of the chapel), Jane Bruton the sister on the ward, Dr Ade Fakoya, Dr Duncan Churchill, nurse Sarah Macauley, Chris Mazeika the shiatsu therapist on the ward and friend of Stephen, as well as photographer Gideon Mendel. They tell us the stories behind the people and times of The Ward, and how and why these important images were taken.
The Ward Revisited, at The Fitzrovia Chapel, 2 Pearson Square, London W1T 3BF. Free exhibition, no booking required. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 6pm, and Sunday from 12noon to 5pm, 5 January to 5 February 2023. Closed Mondays. Screening on the hour every hour. The Ward (second edition) by Gideon Mendel, is published by Trolley Books.