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Guide to the Bill Bytsura ACT UP Photography Collection
1981-2012 (Bulk 1989-1997)

Fales Library and Special Collections

Collection processed by Anna Gurton-Wachter with Rhyannon J. Rodriguez, 2012-2013.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on July 26, 2021
Description is in English.

Biographical Note

Bill Bytsura is an American photographer born in 1956 in Plattsburg, New York. Bytsura moved to New York City in 1980 and lived in the East Village for 30 years. A self-taught photographer, he began his photography career after finding his father's old Minolta SRT–101 camera and becoming fascinated by what it could capture.

During the late 1980s, after the death of his partner, Randy Northup, he was prominent in the AIDS activist movement. He became a member of ACT UP and joined the ACT UP Media Committee with fellow member Jay Blotcher. Bytsura started his AIDS activist project as a way to shed light on the disparity between how AIDS activists were being portrayed in the media and how he saw them at the meetings and protests.

Bytsura began the AIDS activist project in New York City in 1989, and continued to photograph AIDS activists throughout the United States and parts of Europe throughout the 1990s. The work consists of studio-style black and white portraits of each activist, accompanied by a personal statement. In 1992 Bytsura went, camera in hand, to the AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, and in 1993 to the AIDS Conference in Berlin. He documented AIDS activists in Paris, as well as Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta, Miami, and Puerto Rico. This work was shown in numerous galleries in the East Village, and was included in the exhibit "Don't Leave Me This Way, Art in the Age of AIDS" at the Australian National Gallery in 1995. Bytsura's work has appeared in several magazines, including The New York Times Magazine.

Bill Bytsura moved to Panama City, Panama in 2011. He is currently working on photography projects with foundations whose goal is to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds find opportunity and hope through music. He is additionally working on a project photographing the people of Panama as they are now, as the country goes through major growth, to preserve the words and faces of the Panamanian people.