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Family Portrait (2003)

An American Family: An AIDS Legacy is a book project by Tomás Gaspar and tells the compelling story of a gay couple in Florida who became foster care parents to a HIV/AIDS infant named Frank and then dedicated themselves to creating a loving family that eventually included 5 HIV/AIDS children.

The first part of the story was told in Ginger's Book: An AIDS Primer (Into the Light Press, 1995). In 1988 Steven Lofton and Roger Croteau were both nurses working in the pediatric AIDS unit of a Miami hospital when a mother, dying of AIDS-related complications requested that they take custody of her 8-month old HIV/AIDS son Frank. They became one of the first couples in the nation to provide foster care to unwanted, abandoned, or orphaned HIV/AIDS infants.


Then came two other HIV/AIDS children, first Tracy, a 1-year-old with a severe breathing condition, and Ginger, also 1 years old. At this point Steven having trained in foster care and become licensed, quit his nursing job to be at home with the kids while Roger continued working as a nurse. In 1991, they took in a 9-week-ols biracial infant named Bert.

Ginger's Book follows the family through this period until they moved to Oregon in 1998. By this time, however, they had lost Ginger when her weakened immune system was unable to fight off an attack of measles. Bert, though, had sero-reverted to his legal adoption, resulting in a media spectacle and heated debate between their supporters and anti-gay Christian fundamentalists and politicians.

The family once again expanded in Oregon to include two HIV positive brother: Wayne, who was 5, and Ernie, who was 2. Gaspar's new book, An American Family: An AIDS Legacy includes the material of Ginger's Book but also the Oregon chapter and brings the family's story up to date. Gaspar's book sensitive documentary photographs pay tribute to a family whose odyssey is remarkable, courageous, inspiring, and significant in may ways, particularly because of the HIV status of the children and the LGBT status of the parents. LGBT adoption continues to be a legal right for all individuals and couples who desire to become parents.

 

Besides being a moving portrait of a family battling a devastating disease, An American Family: An AIDS Legacy

is also the affecting story of one couple’s commitment to the highest human values of love, dedication, and faith. It exposes the myths and assumptions about the LGBT community and their capacity to parent as legal guardians.

 

Gaspar’s family chronicle has been one of the iconic photographic documents of the AIDS years. It originated as an assignment in workshops with Nan Goldin and Patt Blue at the International Center of Photography (NYC) in 1989.  Gaspar has committed to his documentary portrait of the Croteau -Lofton family for almost 30 years. In its early stages, Gaspar’s project was included in an epic photo projection piece called the Electric Blanket, created originally by Nan Goldin and Allen Frame in 1990 as an art project for Visual AIDS to promote better understanding of the AIDS pandemic. It was later toured and updated by Frank Franca and Allen Frame and presented nationally, in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Washington, D.C., Brooklyn, and Washington State, and internationally, in Norway, Hungary, Germany, the U.K., Japan, and Russia and was included in numerous photo exhibitions of work pertaining to the AIDS pandemic.



Sources:
- Carlos Bell, The Right to Be Parents, (New York, New York University Press, 2012).
- Laura A. Turbe, "Florida's Inconsistent Use of the Best Interest of the Child Standard," Stetson Law Review, October 2003.