ACTORS, DANCERS, painters, writers and others have contributed their work in recent years to raise money and concern for battling the AIDS epidemic. Now a broad assemblage of photographers has come together for the same purpose, with striking effect.

Photographers + Friends United Against AIDS asked a range of commercial, sports, art, fashion, advertising and other photographers to donate images around the theme "The Indomitable Spirit." Well aware that pictures of haggard men in the throes of terminal suffering have become painfully familiar, the organizers were aiming for a different vision, with the goal of harnessing--in their words--"the power of photography to inspire each of us to act with optimism and compassion and energy to meet the challenges presented by the AIDS epidemic."

Some of the contributions were years old, others are brand new. Some examine the disease and its effects head on. But most are indirect and more elliptical: modern photographic metaphors. Such scenes may be inspiring, funny, wistful, obscure, fascinating, encouraging or unbearably sad. As a group, certainly, they challenge the viewer to participate more than is customary.

On these pages is a small portfolio culled from the 94 images in the show, currently at the International Center of Photography Midtown in New York. It comes May 13 to the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, in Barnsdall Art Park. Later, the works will be auctioned, with the proceeds going to raise money for AIDS research and care.

In the meantime, the photographers hope, they will contribute in other, important ways.

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