In the late nineties, I created this image, commissioned by a publicity office in my neighborhood, which was working for the Aids Prevention Campaign.
Aids was a hot topic at that time and was seen as a viral disease that only infected the gay community. An awareness campaign to stimulate the use of a condom during intercourse was necessary to prevent more infections.
My task was to convert this idea of prevention into an image that needed to speak for itself.
I proposed to photograph a man with a naked torso and only covered with a pair of underpants. To suggest the erotic atmosphere and the arousal preceding the use of a contraceptive, it went without saying that my model should have an erection.
In western culture, we read an image from top left to bottom right. With this in mind, I constructed this image.  I put a background light in the corner top left to attract the attention, realizing that the gaze is first attracted to light areas in an image. As such, the viewer notices the drugs. Then the erect penis points towards the condoms like an arrow. Message: although drugs exist to extend the life of people with aids, it is vital to use a condom.
The publicity office was satisfied with the image and added the sentences: “Life can be hard”, and on the postcard: “we stay upright”, which served as a humoristic accent to the campaign.

Now, is this a controversial ad? It’s quite the suggestive picture. The penis in the underpants is hyperreal but you cannot see it, only imagine it. The lighting is highly professional and adds a soft ambience to the scene. Aesthetics buffers the erotically charged moment. Therefore, in my opinion, this poster refuses to be a controversial ad. However, the controversy lies in the mind of the viewer. Some asked questions about the moments before I pushed the release button of the camera, others overtly questioned: “but how has he obtained such an erection!”. People's fantasies swung in all possible directions. The truth was rather technical: being a stripper, he knew his job. In the shower, he masturbated and before the release he tightened a rope around his genitals. Luckily, he was experienced in it!

Hilde Braet, Master of visual culture.