Philipp Spiegel was conceived in a passionate evening in September 2013.
His birth, by which his diagnosis and revelation of his status is referred to, was on January 2nd, 2014.
Despite the beginning struggle of confrontation with HIV and the social fallout, he already prepared his first prose during his earliest months. Capturing the emotional strains and challenges, he managed to document a fair amount of insight into his psyche.
As months progressed, his old life and self, regained a foothold in his doing. And yet Philipp Spiegel was born and wouldn’t leave.
Philipp Spiegel started getting active in HIV related projects and assisting organizations with his insight, until eventually committing to his own artistic endeavor. Coming from photography, this was an obvious development.
Philipp Spiegel contributed to the Vangardist Magazines awareness campaign; donating blood for a magazine printed in positive blood that not only made headlines around the world, but also won several advertising awards.
He also contributed an article with early emotional insights to his status.
After having several project ideas rejected and failing to capture support, Philipp Spiegel retreated again for many months until the spring of 2017 – when he finally decided to commit to the challenge that the battle against HIV and its stigma still faces today.
The overshadowing backdrop of my work is my human immunodeficiency virus. Commonly known as HIV. Yet it is not the topic – the topic is my transformation and the changes resulting in a life with HIV.
The fear and stigma which society associates with the virus, contrasting my own perception and experience on an everyday basis.
About heterosexuality in combination with the social stigma and the dealing with sexuality itself. In constant rotation, my “old life” affects the shape of my new life. Expressions of sexuality, intimacy, adventure, romance, loneliness, travel, solitude, family and friends. And love. All of these topics and comparisons flow into the work. The old perception versus the new, changed perception.
Finding an artistic identity is a core issue in my work, and how everyday topics converge with my actual life. Topics of poisonous blood, of sexual encounters and the constant wearing of a mask, disclosing my status in public..
An HIV infection plants a seed of doubt - a doubt about decision making, about sexual partners and choices that engrains itself into the mind.
Various types of photography dominate this process - the pictures of women - not only depicting the sexual stigma in relation to HIV but my altered approach to sexuality itself and a longing desire. This involves a play with the words and techniques of “negativity” and “positivity” – as found in analogue photography, as well as repetitive imagery, seeing that explanations and actions of every day life have a monotonous repetitive stance to them. Who am I now as a "Positive"? Who was I as a "Negative"?
Personal consequences and items have become an everyday addition to my life. Abstracted self portraits and installations depict these issues. In subtlety, my work combines my creations with self reflections as an everyday documentary.
Being a heterosexual male, the insights concerning HIV are in part very different to previous views on the matter. In Austria, HIV is still a very “homosexually themed” disease. The struggle with HIV as a heterosexual has its own, rarely addressed challenges.
WHEN DO I TELL HER?
My work takes my photographs of the life before my infection and abstracts them. In destroying the old images, I create something new. As the virus has given me insight and a new approach, I do not victimize myself with these projects. I simply acknowledge the change.
That I cannot return to the life I previously had. And the challenges I face on an everyday basis are ever present. The stigmatization of HIV, and all the fears associated with it, force me to wear a mask.
Even though the feeling of carrying venom inside of me has ceased, upon meeting sexual partners a damocletian sword looms over my head; When is the right time to tell a sexual partner? I am not obliged to tell from a legal standpoint – but what about the moral standpoint?
Ironically, thanks to modern medicine, I am the safest sexual partner one can have - simply since I know of my status. I am checked every three months for every abnormality. And yet this knowledge is still far from society.
If I don’t tell her, is that betrayal? If I do, do I lose every chance of sex?
My work reflects upon my need to wear a mask. To keep hidden and constantly question my own decisions. A balancing act of morality.
And acceptance. For years, sex was a scary thought. It took years to overcome that. Associating sex with fear was common.
The destruction and alteration of my images reflects this process - for I must destroy my ego and my past to start creating something new.
The images are deliberately held in square format, to emphasize the confinement in which sexuality and HIV is seen.
The titles of the pictures are quotes, and slightly altered quotes from literature, poetry and songs that have a personal note to past relationships and sexual encounters.
The title “Id rather have cancer than HIV” is a quote I picked up in a conversation with a girl shortly after my infection, showing the ignorance with which HIV is still perceived by even educated persons. Sentences and fragments of conversations I hear concerning this topic are a constant thread throughout my work, emphasizing the various prejudices that are still associated with HIV.
Next to these pieces of art, I am currently working on a book that tells the story of my infection and the battle I had to face following this event.
I have also started an instagram account under the name #wreckwithnodirection to start networking and visually portraying everyday life with HIV.
The topic of HIV is so diverse and grand, that my list of projects and topics has given me a long-term commitment. This includes exploring various aspects of society, of politics, virology and even epidemiology.
Since 2007: Photographer, Photojournalist and Teacher in Vienna, Barcelona
Specialised in Reportage- and Fashion-Photography – International productions and publications
Concept and production of Art-Projects and exhibiting in various venues and cities
Project management, conception and execution of international assignments in photojournalism, art- and fashion photography
Investigative Research with international NGOs
Assignments in: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Argentina, USA, Austria, Spain
February 2018 – "Going Viral", Offspace Vienna, Austria
2014 – Exhibition „Neighbours“, Barcelona, Spain
11.10.2017 – Participant at the Salvatorian Charity Auction
2015 – Finalist at the Sygenta Photography Awards „Scarcity Waste“; Exhibited at Somerset House, London / Centro Cultural, Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horzonte, Brasilien / Locarno, Italy
2012 – Group Exhibition „Trashed“ and „Villa 31“, La Escosesa, Barcelona
2004 - 2005: Project management and Location Scout – Life Locations, London
Event Management and Location Scouting
Coordination of promotion crews
Design and Creation of online marketing measures
Customer relation management
2004: Photography project and NGO work at “Free Tibet” - India
Travel photography in Indaia, Nepal und Tibet
English teaching for Tibetan refugees
2003 - 2004: Graphic Design - Freelance
Brand Management and Flyer Designs for “Himalaya Salz” & „Narrenturm Musem Wien“
Customer Relation Management
Bachelor in Advertising and Marketing – Advertising Academy, Vienna
Focus on Marketing, PR and Graphic Design
Studies of Art History and Law
University of Vienna (200-2002)
Höhere Schule des Bundes Boerhaavegasse
A-Levels in Art and English (1998-2000)
Spanish (Advanced B1/B2)