Celebrity stylist Yashua Simmons and photographer Clifford Prince King have lent their creative talent to the award-winning creative and entertainment studio Harley & Co (which specializes in experiences, identity design, and narrative content—latest photo campaign in partnership with ViiV Healthcare. ViiV is using the campaign as a push to develop initiatives and partnerships that use the power of culture to change stigma and bias, particularly in regard to communities that are deeply affected by HIV.
“This project is so important to ViiV Healthcare and the HIV movement at large as we look to expand how Black gay, bi, and queer men are seen. We really aimed to create space an authentic depiction of the joy, resilience, and beauty of these men, in hopes that Black gay, bi, and queer men across the country can see themselves in the program and in this movement,” said P.J. Moton-Poole, ViiV Senior Manager, External Affairs North America.
ViiV Healthcare is a leader in the development of therapies for HIV infection. Its Accelerate Initiative is to be spread over a four-year, $10 million dollar commitment by the healthcare company that creates a range of innovative community-driven projects aimed at supporting and strengthening the well-being of gay Black men.
The campaign features a diverse group of gay and queer African American men from all over the country. The images acknowledge and celebrate a wholeness of knowing oneself as an essential part of combating the stigma and bias that gay Black men still face daily. Eight men were featured and shot in locations that were evocative of the passions and interiors of their lives. Celebrity stylist Yashua Simmons worked with each individual to create looks that reflected the unique ways in which they move through the world.
"Representation is key, and telling these stories is incredibly vital and progressive,” said King, the photographer who shot the campaign and whose portrait is also featured in the campaign series.
"It was important for me that each individual was able to show up and be photographed as the best version of themselves, from their own point of view," added Simmons. “Often our stories and likenesses are filtered through a canon that isn't our own. An outsider controlling a narrative for something they merely spectate and not live. I want each person to experience these bold, intellectual images as a true reflection of self on their own, personal terms with a dash of fantasy."