When Marie was a girl, she dreamed of becoming a professional dancer and auditioned for the National Ballet School of Canada. Q: “What do you think people on the outside see in this photo?” A: “Just a girl who is playful, carefree, and fun loving. Maybe had some sort of dance background or some gymnast background, or something.” A: “Does the photo accurately represent you?” A: “Sure. Because, you know, a needle in my arm is only ten per cent of who I am. The other parts are going to a park and playing, having fun outside and watching children play. Yeah. Being as much a part of as I can be in the community.” Q: “What do you hope people get out of the photograph? What do you want to show?” A: “That I’m not just some dirty, mistrusting, drug addict from the skid row.”

“A Needle In My Arm Is Only 10% Of Who I Am”

Heroin-assisted treatment allows Marie to inject drugs safely, away from the streets. Through these photos, she explains that she is more than her addiction

Aaron Goodman
Mar 13, 2016 · 5 min read

by Aaron Goodman

This is the third and final article of a series in which I share the results of a project in which I photographed three long-term heroin users — Cheryl, Johnny and Marie — and asked each to interpret my photos.

Read Part One which introduces the project and recounts Cheryl’s story. Read Part Two which tells Johnny’s story

PART THREE: MARIE’S STORY

Aaron: What do you think people on the outside see in this photo?

Marie: They see me in a sterilized place doing my injection, that’s about it.

Aaron: Do you think this photo accurately represents you?

Marie: Yep, yep. That’s not just only who I am though. There’s lot more to me than that. That’s it.

Aaron: Is there any other information you would like people to know? What would you like to get out of the photograph, what do you want it to show?

Marie: That I don’t have to be in alleys doing it anymore, like I used to be. I’m in an safe environment, no risk of getting or transmitting any infections, and my health is taken care of.

Aaron: What do you think people on the outside see in this photo?

Marie: That I’m caring for my pet whom I’ve have taken on the bus. That I’m not selfish. That I don’t just think of me and my addiction. That was me, on the bus, going to see my Mom. I was going overnight so I had to take my cat with me.

Aaron: And what do you hope people get out of this photograph? What do you want to show in this photograph?

Marie: Again, that there is more to me … That it’s not just an addiction, that there’s more to my life than addiction.

Aaron: Like?

Marie: Like my cat. Like my family. Like taking time out to remember where and who I truly am. And where I come from.

Aaron: What do you think people on the outside see in this photo?

Marie: They might possibly see that I’m being cruel. Which is not what I want them to see.

Aaron: Do you think this photo accurately represents you?

Marie: No. Not really. Because I wasn’t trying to hurt her. She looks very scared and sad there. Doesn’t really look happy at all.

Aaron: What’s missing in this photograph?

Marie: She looks alone. And I don’t like that because she’s not.

Aaron: Is there any other information you would like people to know?

Marie: I wasn’t trying to hurt her.

Aaron: What were you trying to do?

Marie: I wanted her to meet my Mom and I was taking her. She was just a kitten at the time, so I figured she was better of with me then staying at home by herself because she could get in a lot of trouble. She would make a mess in my house.

Aaron: Could you imagine a different photograph that would help people understand your life?

Marie: Maybe one shows me kissing her or something rather than … she looks very sad there.

Aaron: What do you think people on the outside see in this photo?

Amber: They see me walking up to a building. They could think anything — they could think that I’m going to see a drug dealer, they could think basically whatever they want, but that’s not what it is. I was going to see my Mom.

Aaron: How would you have liked me to take photo differently and why? What’s missing in this photo in your opinion?

Marie: Maybe my face, the smile on my face that I’m happy to see her. The excitement that I had because it was the first time I had seen her in a while.

Aaron: Is there any other information you want people to know? What do you hope people get out of this photograph and what do you want to show?

Marie: That I’m just not a junkie. And that I have people that care about me and I care about people. That person you see with a needle in her hand is not the only person I am.

Aaron: What do you think people on the outside see in this photo?

Marie: I don’t know. I don’t know. To me, I look confused, maybe a little freaked out or something. I don’t know.

Aaron: Do you think this photo accurately represents you?

Marie: Well it’s me, yeah, I guess. I don’t like it.

Aaron: How would you have liked me to take photo differently and why? What’s missing?

Marie: Maybe not so close up. Maybe it’s a harsh truth, I don’t know. Yeah, just not so close.

Aaron: Could you imagine a different photograph that would help people understand your life?

Marie: No, not really. Maybe one where the door was opening, instead of the confusion of what her address really was. And the fear of going out there for nothing.

Aaron: What do you think people on the outside see in this photo?

Marie: Somebody who’s happy, somebody who isn’t so dark or depressed. Yet again, somebody who’s carefree and playful, and likes to enjoy herself.

Aaron: Do you think this photo accurately represents you?

Marie: Yep. Because I do that all the time. I’m always like that.

Aaron: What are you always like?

Marie: With a smile on my face, I try to always be happy. Which is really hard sometimes but yeah.

Aaron: Could you imagine a different photograph that would help people understand your life?

Marie: No. It’s me.

Aaron Goodman is a photographer, multimedia producer, documentary maker and instructor based in Vancouver, B.C. and Montreal, QC. Connect with Aaron on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This project was supported by a Katalyst Grant at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C. where Aaron is a faculty member in Journalism and Communication Studies.

Vantage

Perspectives on Visual Storytelling

Vantage

Perspectives on Visual Storytelling

Aaron Goodman

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Photo, multimedia, documentary. Human rights & genocide. Founder @storyturns.

Vantage

Perspectives on Visual Storytelling