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Princess Diana is Picture Perfect in Accredited Access Exhibition at Tysons


In a long-sleeved, navy dress, Princess Diana sits in a chair, looking as elegant as always. Her right arm is extended, shaking the hand of a young man. He’s been photographed from the back, so aside from the edge of his glasses and jaw, he’s anonymous. 

That photo, taken by long-serving royal photographer Anwar Hussein, changed the world. That’s because the anonymous young man was Ivan Cohen, the only AIDS patient residing in the medical ward Diana visited who was willing to be photographed with her—and only from the back. The year was 1987, and ignorance and bigotry against people living with HIV/AIDS permeated the general public. The Princess of Wales publicly holding the hand of an AIDS patient was instrumental in changing public perception of the disease, according to Cohen himself.

The photo is on display alongside 144 other photographs in a new exhibit that opened at Tysons Corner Center on June 8. Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibit takes a look at Diana’s life as a royal, seen through the eyes of Hussein. His work—including never-before-seen photographs of the princess—is presented next to photos taken by his sons Samir and Zak, who both work as royal photographers today. 

The exhibit, which visited Los Angeles and Chicago earlier this year, comes 25 years after Diana died in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997, in what feels like an influx of Lady Di content—Sandi Rankaduwa called it a “Dianaissance” in an essay for BuzzFeed News. Diana was the subject of The Crown’s fourth season, and will reappear in its fifth, which is slated for a November release. Kristen Stewart portrayed her in last year’s fantastical psychological drama Spencer, and she even got the Broadway musical treatment, which was torn apart by critics. Exhibit curator Cliff Skelliter chalks this renewed interest up to Diana’s relatability, which earned her the unofficial title of the People’s Princess.

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