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Without an image there will be no conversation.

Without a conversation, there will be no education.

Without an education, there will be no change.

Drug addiction has become an epidemic amoung young, middle-class people in the great United States of America and it is an issue that is regularly swept under the carpet and ignored. 

Unfortunately, I have watched many friends, all young, bright and full of promise, succumb to this insidious disease and allow a substance to destroy their lives, and in some instances, take their lives altogether. Through my images I hope to shed light on the fact that these are America’s children, promising children, who are dying from an unnecessary and unrecognized disease. 

I am familiar with the phrase, “once an addict, always an addict,” all too well. I strove to highlight this by photographing both active and recovering addicts, and came across an interesting dynamic in doing so. As it turns out, the active addicts were far more willing to be photographed, whereas the recovering addicts were shy and humble. I’d expected the opposite to happen, but this turn of events made me realize how humbling a disease addiction really is. It is the ultimate betrayal of self, and one only recognizes this once in recovery, if one is lucky enough to survive. 

When I look at war and conflict photography, the images are striking, intriguing and often disturbing, but I feel a sense of detachment from them, as if “that’s them, not me.” My aim is to draw people into my images and show them that this could be their child, their brother, their niece. This could happen to any one of them, and more easily than they realize.

The face of addiction is no longer the homeless, toothless, heroin-addicted veteran. Drug addiction has affected thousands of young people, from very ordinary families, across the country and until America realizes that this is an illness and it needs to be treated urgently, young people will continue to die. Sweeping the issue under the rug is the reason why addicts do not receive the proper care when they need it. We have to understand that their one unfortunate and misguided decision has led to a sickness they cannot control, nor free themselves of without help. 

Addicts need compassion, not condemnation. 

This project was the recipient of the Dini Jones Award, Philadelphia, 2012.

All images were shot on a Hasselblad medium format film camera, printed digitally on archival matte.

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