Graham MacIndoe

Untitled: From the series Coming Clean


Pittsburgh, PA

The photographs in this series were taken over almost a decade when I was addicted to heroin and crack. I’d been working as a photographer in New York and upheaval in my personal life mixed with some bad decisions sent me on a downward spiral into addiction. During the early years I managed to keep myself together but was in denial about having a problem. Then one day I caught my reflection in a bathroom mirror and what I saw scared me. My skin was gray, my eyes were dead, I looked like I hadn’t slept for ages. I took a picture of myself with my mobile phone, and that’s how I started documenting my addiction. I didn’t think I’d ever do anything with the photos but I felt compelled to record what was happening to me. I’d prop a cheap digital camera on a shelf or the floor and set the self-timer to take pictures as I went about the rituals of my habit. The rough, grainy quality of the images reflects the environment I was living in: a housing project in Brooklyn. After many arrests, I ended up spending four months at Rikers Island, followed by five months in immigration detention fighting a deportation order. I was lucky to win my case and get to stay in the U.S. About a year after my release, I came across hundreds of images from that time period saved on old thumb drives. It was tough looking at them at first and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever show them. But I decided I wanted people to see what addiction looks from the inside—through the eyes of someone who lived through it. I was able to rebuild my life and my photography career, but my criminal record is still a barrier for me and millions of people who have been arrested for drug possession. What I needed was treatment for my addiction—not incarceration.

Photograph by Alex Jones
Photograph by Alex Jones


Orange Barrel Media

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