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AIDS and art: Stevan Talevski's latest photography exhibit 

Stevan Talevski, whose family is originally from Macedonia, has worked as a photographer for four years. His photography business is called Cielo (meaning "sky" in Spanish) Studio. He primarily does documentary work, as well as event and family photography. In November of 2008, he traveled to South Africa with Warehouse 242. He took photos of the people and scenes he saw on his visit. These photos will be featured in Warehouse 242's upcoming exhibition Making AIDS Work: Stories of Beauty and Affliction. The opening reception for the exhibition will go down on May 29, from 7-10 p.m. at Warehouse 242. The exhibition will continue through the summer. For more information, go to www.warehouse242.org.

Creative Loafing: How did you become involved with Warehouse 242?

Stevan Talevski: When I arrived in Charlotte seven years ago, it was the one church that I related with the most. It is a non-traditional Christian church that accepts normal people.

You visited South Africa in November of 2008 with Warehouse 242. What kinds of images did you make it your goal to capture on camera and why?

It was a difficult task. I wanted to capture the reality of the AIDS pandemic that is ripping Africa apart. However, it was also important to capture the dignity of the people and the culture. It was important to capture more than a relief organization image. I wanted to capture the beauty that lives between suffering.

Were there scenes you saw on the trip that were too disturbing to take photos of?

It's always disturbing to see someone dying from a disease that is preventable and manageable. I kept the dignity of the individual my number one priority. In many cases, the victims wanted their photo taken in hopes it would help fight AIDS and prevent future victims. It humbles me immensely. I hope I serve them well.

The exhibit is called Making AIDS Work: Stories of Beauty and Affliction. Why this title?

The reality is that until HIV/AIDS is cured, we have to live with it. We have to make it work. We have no choice. We do, however, have a choice to join the fight to prevent, educate, show compassion, and weigh in on the lives of people that are no different than you and I and our children. When you do this, you see the beauty between the suffering and a joy that warms your soul. It is a spiritual connection.

What did you learn from the trip?

I learned that AIDS and Africa do not have to be overwhelming. Everyone can make a difference. You do this by engaging Africans one African at a time. By simply engaging from the heart, you will make a difference in another's.

How can the Charlotte community help the people of South Africa? In what ways does this exhibit aim to help?

The Charlotte community can support efforts by joining us during the gallery opening on May 29. All proceeds will go to the Africa fund that promotes Income Generating Activity (IGA). IGA provides African communities support to drive sustaining businesses like farming, peanut butter manufacturing, livestock breeding, etc. We believe that economic health drives stability needed to fight AIDS. It is really simple. In order to treat HIV, you need ARV's (Anti-Retroviral Vaccinations). To take ARV's, you need to have nutritional meals every day. To have nutritional meals, you need money to buy food. To make money, you need businesses. This solves a problem and preserves dignity.

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