Positively Aware Magazine Cover Photoshoot: Staying in the game

Positivly Aware Magazine Cover Chicago HIV AIDS
Chicago Magazine Cover photoshoot by photographer John Gress


After driving back to Chicago from a photoshoot in Des Moines, I met with Bhuttu Matthews for a late afternoon magazine cover portrait session for Positively Aware Magazine, which was comprised of simulated action and portraiture. Not only do I love using my Photek Softlighter II umbrellas for portraits, I love shooting back lit images against a blue sky, because it allows me an opportunity to shape the light in the foreground, while exposing or the sky and using the sun as a hair light.

A rugby player learns to overcome obstacles to care and treatment

by Rick Guasco
photography by John Gress

From the time he was a young boy in India, Bhuttu Matthews loved sports. An all-around athlete, he played soccer and volleyball and competed in track and field in school. He was much like his father, who was a boxer and track and field athlete.

“My first memory is of my dad teaching me how to hold a cricket bat,” Matthews said. “Sports have always been a huge part of my identity.”

All that was uprooted, however, after Matthews and his mother moved to the United States when he was 16, while his dad remained in India to preserve his retirement benefits. Matthews played soccer and swam while attending his new high school in Chicago, and then competed in martial arts while attending DePaul University. But he felt disconnected from a part of himself, and depression began to set in.

“Being closeted and coming from a culture that was very conservative and not accepting of gay people, it became an internal struggle that led to depression,” Matthews said. “Sex was the only thing that made me feel good. The more I felt depressed about non-acceptance, the more I turned to sex. From the time I was 18, I was going to a bathhouse, and once the internet became popular, I was looking for sex online.”

In the spring of 2004, Matthews tested HIV-positive. “Once I was diagnosed with HIV, I just threw caution to the wind,” Matthews said. “It seemed only natural to me that I would continue on this path through artificial means.”

Matthews began experimenting with crystal meth in the fall of 2005. By the following July, he was injecting it. “I would wake up in the morning and start thinking about when I could get high again,” he said. “Once I had started doing it, I just wanted to keep doing it. Looking back at it now, I can recognize that I was an addict, but at the time, I did not think of my use in those terms.” … Read More



Magazine Cover photoshoot by photographer John Gress
Chicago Magazine Cover photoshoot by photographer John Gress


Magazine Cover photoshoot by photographer John Gress
Chicago Magazine Cover photoshoot by photographer John Gress
Positively Aware Magazine Cover Photoshoot in Chicago Behind The Scenes

I used a Photek Softlight II and a Profoto D1 to capture Bhuttu while using a Variable ND filter on my camera so I could shoot at f2.8.


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