RandGaynor

Born in Fredericton, NB, Rand’s “careen” took him first to the Ontario College of Art for two years, and then to the New Brunswick Teachers College where he majored in both Art and Creative English. At graduation he was awarded a one time, specially-created scholarship “For Outstanding Contribution to the English Department,” for his creative writing. He later completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. AHe lived in Halifax throughout the 1980s and 1990 and was responsible for much of the visual identity of GAE & GALA including the logo and the controversial "Tits'n'Lipstick" image at The Turret.1

Rand's photos of “Patient Zero,” GaetanDugas, have been featured in several international magazines and documentary films, a BBC Radio program and in "Image and Inscription: an Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Photography" published by Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography, Toronto.

Rand Gaynor and the photographs of “Patient Zero”

pic One summer day at the start of the 1980s, two Halifax acquaintances met by a lakeshore in Toronto. One had a camera; the other wanted to have his picture taken, so he posed for his friend on a swing. Five black-and-white photographs survive as documents of the moment.

Half a decade later, one of the images that Rand Gaynor recorded with his camera entered the popular imagination around the world as an icon of the AIDS crisis, the very face of contagion. The figure of Gaëtan Dugas on a swing on Centre Island has been used to tell a widely disseminated story.

In 1987, St. Martin’s Press in the United States published And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, a thick journalistic account, by San Fransisco writer Randy Shilts, of the early course of AIDS in American society.

After the book’s publication, several mass-circulation magazines reproduced Gaynor’s photograph to accompany stories about Patient Zero. Gaynor says that he provided access to the image, not only to LIFE in the US, but also to Burda in Germany, Europea in Italy, and a magazine in South Africa.

“We were trying to get a picture of his dick,” Rand Gaynor said in 1997. According to Gaynor, the photograph resulted from a chance encounter. He was walking on Centre Island in Toronto Harbour during a summer visit sometime around 1980 when he came upon Gaëtan Dugas, whose social circles overlapped with his own back in Halifax. Although Dugas was to him “just a casual acquaintance,” Gaynor’s former partner, with whom the photographer remained close, had “had a fling” with Dugas, whom Gaynor described as “very sexual and really sweet.” Dugas, he says, “was impish, he was adorable, he was hot, he was horny. He always seemed to be smiling and in good spirits. His stated mission in life was to have sex with a different man every night.”

The five surviving photographs include a rather conventional smiling portrait with the strap of a shoulder bag visible on one shoulder — the only one in which the swing does not feature — and two close-ups of Dugas sitting still in the swing, in one of which his face gives a pouty hint of his devastating seductiveness.

In the most widely published Gaynor photograph, thick branches of the background trees rise from either side, bracing the suspended Gaëtan Dugas at his hips while his legs are splayed in an inverted V. While the linked chains that hold the swing are faintly visible, most of the background dissipates in a dark blur that serves to accentuate the whiteness of Gaëtan’s T-shirt and to set off dramatically his halo of unearthly blond hair.

In a more recent interview, Gaynor said that Dugas “was trying to show me his balls.” The one image in which Dugas’s genitalia can be glimpsed is an awkwardly foreshortened view of Dugas leaning far back in the swing with his right leg nearly horizontal and his left raised high above his head. When LIFE asked Gaynor for one of the photographs, he says, his ex joked, “Don’t send them that one: they probably don’t want to see the murder weapon.”

This text is based on excerpts from a longer essay by RobinMetcalfe, “Light in the Loafers: The Gaynor Photographs of Gaëtan Dugas and the Invention of Patient Zero,” in Image and Inscription: An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Photography, edited by Robert Bean (Toronto: Gallery 44 / YYZ Books, 2005), pp. 63-75.


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Footnotes:

1. Bio from Rand April 26, 2020