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

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

Marie self-injects her medication at Providence Healthcare’s Crosstown Clinic in Vancouver.

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.

Marie crosses Vancouver by bus with her cat to try finding her mother whom she hasn’t seen in two years.

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.

Marie’s cat tries to escape from its carrier bag several times during the trip.

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.

Marie approaches an apartment building where she thinks her mother may live. She hasn’t seen her mother in over two years.

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.

Marie searches for her mother’s name on an apartment intercom system.

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.

Marie relaxes in her room in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

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.