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
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!
Braet, Master of visual culture.