A month ago one of my heroes died. If you are part of the harm reduction community you likely already know who Dan Bigg was, and you are probably trying to come to terms with knowing he is no longer in the world. (If you don’t know who he is go and read this article by Tessie Castillo to give you an idea of the man he was). Dan was also my friend and someone who, on more than one occasion, allowed me to point a lens in his direction.
I’ve been fortunate to have been given access to photograph at the two Drug Consumption Rooms in Australia, the Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) which has been running for over 17 years, and the recently opened Melbourne Medically Supervised Injecting Room (MSIR). Most of the photos I’ve been taking are of the staff and the facilities at the projects… but I’d like to describe the photo I didn’t take.
In 2017 I was invited to visit the Chicago Recovery Alliance one of the most respected harm reduction services in the United States. The visit was a mixture of different work projects but included photography around the service and of it’s staff for a future web project.
At rehab, you will be able to completely focus on recovery. While you are in treatment, you will be separated from people and places that may have tempted or encouraged you to use, and from people who may try to tell you that they don’t believe you can recover. You won’t have to deal with the stressors of day-to-day life while you put all your effort and energy into what it takes to live a drug-free life for any patient or even help for couples in need.
During your time in treatment, you’ll learn much more about addiction, including what may trigger the urge to use in the future and what you can do when you experience cravings. Your days will be structured, leaving you with little or no downtime for thinking about wanting to use.
In November I was invited to photograph Release’s 50th birthday celebrations, this included the opening of a pop-up art gallery entitled ‘The Museum of Drug Policy’, workshops on drug policy and drug law, plus a performance by the Sex Workers Opera.
During the International Harm Reduction Conference in Montreal the then Canadian Health Minister Jane Philpott gave a speech about the current state of harm reduction work in the country. As she started her speech protesters carrying banners moved in front of the stage to protest the lack of government action to prevent overdose deaths.
I’ve never liked the way I look. While I know I’m not extremely ugly, I also know that I would never consider myself ‘good looking’. My face is full of faults, from the scar on my cheek (as a baby I scratched my face quite badly), the way my smile is never full because I’m so self conscious of my crooked teeth, to the way I see that one of my eyelids has a droop… and that’s without getting to the baldness.