Images should tell the human side of your story in a positive and responsible way. Below is advice and examples from photographers who specialise in photographing alcohol and drugs for your articles.
Nigel Brunsdon is a photographer and activist working with people who use drugs. His photography subjects are workers, advocates, people who use drugs and academics he has met around the world. Nigel’s work has been used by organisations both in the UK and internationally. He is always happy to discuss collaboration or exhibition opportunities. More examples of his work can be found on his website.
Image Descriptions (from top to bottom):
1. Anyones child
This image show flowers made by parents who are part of Anyone’s Child, a group who have all experienced loss due to their adult childreoverdosing and who now campaign for a legalised drug supply. Each follower represents a life lost.
2. Equipment Knolling
A reprehensive selection of the equipment used to prepare and inject drugs
3. Injecting Preparation
Real image of someone preparing heroin for injecting, the image shows the correct range of equipment that is given out by harm reduction services as well as showing safe preparation techniques like using a leaflet/booklet to delineate each person’s space.
Nigel’s advice for depicting drug use and/or homelessness in images:
- Avoid the fake images of depression and overdose when writing articles about drug use, especially when the article has nothing to do with overdose.
- Avoid identifying images of people who use drugs or people experiencing homelessness, instead use environmental images to represent these situations, e.g. sleeping bags in doorways. There can be no “informed consent” when photographing people who are homeless, and using the excuse that they are in a public space and so it is ok to photograph them ignores that they have little or no choice on what space they are in.
- If showing drug use check first that the images used are accurate, most stock images use the wrong equipment or method of use, this will be obvious to anyone who knows the situation and your article will lack impact as a result.
- The same is true of showing drugs themselves, having an image of random pills, a massive pile of flour and a syringe on a table is a tired trope.
- If you are doing a specific story about someone who uses drugs or is homeless you could use images of their hand or them walking away from the camera etc… while they may be ok with you photographing them this week as part of a story they may not be happy in 2-3 years’ time that photos with their face identifying them as being in the situation they are in today exist.