I first met Julie on January 28th, 1993. Julie, 19, stood in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel, barefoot, pants unzipped, and an 8 day-old infant in her arms. She lived in San Francisco’s SRO district, a neighbourhood of soup kitchens and cheap rooms. Her room was piled with clothes, overfull ashtrays and trash. She lived with Jack, father of her first baby Rachael and who had given her HIV/AIDS. She left him months later to stop using drugs.
Julie’s first memory of her mother is getting drunk with her at 6 and then being sexually abused by her stepfather. She ran away at 14 and became a drug addict at 15. Living in alleys, crack dens, and bunked with more dirty old men than she cared to count.
For 18-years I photographed Julie’s complex story of multiple homes, AIDS, drugs, relationships, poverty, births, deaths, loss and reunion, following Julie from the streets of San Francisco to the woods of Alaska. An in-depth look at social issues affecting American Society.
In 1991, after an internship created for her by The New York Times, Darcy Padilla was offered a job.
Padilla decided to pursue her own documentary projects.
For one of her first long-term stories, she spent two-years visiting an isolation ward at a maximum-security prison in California, photographing inmates with AIDS, bolstering her commitment to her life’s work.
AIDS and its consequences became part of her when she spent five-years photographing residents of transient hotels in one of the poorest neighbourhoods of San Francisco. She saw all the consequences of poverty – loneliness, broken families, drugs, and the devastation of HIV.
Padilla’s enduring study has been the life of one woman she met in 1993. “The Julie Project“, the epic story of the life and death of Julie spans 18-years starting with a chance encounter and provides an in-depth look at poverty, AIDS, and social issues that are affecting American Society.
Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Award, the Alexia Foundation Professional Grant, the Open Society Institute Individual Fellowship, the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography, and recently, the 2011 & 2012 World Press Photo Awards.