#ModesofFlight #DocumentaryPhotography | I

Hamilton Ontario Canada documentary photography addiction paint huffing mental health

Frightened, the girl began squealing, crying and protesting as the cops stormed the bus shelter and struggled to get handcuffs on her.

Hamilton Ontario Canada documentary photography addiction paint huffing mental health

While sitting in there just before the officers seized upon her, the girl only saw the ambulance that pulled up alongside the street in front of the shelter with its emergency lights on. No siren. The two-man crew exited their vehicle and casually stood on the sidewalk outside the shelter.

Hamilton Ontario Canada documentary photography addiction paint huffing mental health

The girl was transfixed on the vehicle lights; probably puzzled why the ambulance was even there. It wasn’t the kind of bus she was waiting for. There were other citizens around waiting for public transit but it was obvious that none of them needed medical help. The woman also didn’t see that three police cruisers had quietly pulled up behind the shelter through the shopping mall parking lot to her back. They had the element of surprise.

Hamilton Ontario Canada documentary photography addiction paint huffing mental health

The officers got out and sneaked up to the shelter opening. The girl was cornered. The struggle was lively but brief. The cops had her in manacles and sitting on the shelter bench without an increase in the risk of danger.

Hamilton Ontario Canada documentary photography addiction paint huffing mental health

It all started when the young lady had entered a store in a big box shopping centre to purchase several cans of spray paint. Even before leaving the store with them, she began huffing. That is, inhaling the toxic paint fumes in order to get high or euphoric. Someone dialed 911, and a concerned and curious patron followed the woman out of the store and into the mall.

Hamilton Ontario Canada documentary photography addiction paint huffing mental health

The girl made her way to the western mall entrance, and sat between the double-glass doors for a while. There, she continued to anesthetize herself against whatever she didn’t like experiencing about her life. A short while later, in a daze, she left that position for the nearby bus shelter; completely abandoning all of the cans of paint that she had purchased there in a plastic bag.

Hamilton Ontario Canada documentary photography addiction paint huffing mental health

This is a middleclass suburb. In this city, many people associate this sort of thing with the poorer and older inner city. Every now and then; however, something happens to remind folks that substance addictions are pervasive in modern society. It impacts all demographics, and always adversely so.

Hamilton Ontario Canada documentary photography addiction paint huffing mental health

Hamilton Ontario Canada documentary photography addiction paint huffing mental health

Cuffed and in tears, the girl now knew why the ambulance was there on this soggy, foggy, heart aching evening. She understood that the paramedics had actually come for her.

Hamilton Ontario Canada documentary photography addiction paint huffing mental health

25 thoughts on “#ModesofFlight #DocumentaryPhotography | I

  1. wow- well this “someone” saved her life!
    and Mof man – this post was so well done. At first when i saw it int he reader I skimmed it and thought you were maybe writing a bit of fiction – and upon the quick skim – the handcuff one seemed dark and deadly – so I almost did not read ((I follow a lot of writers these days and I am not into reading murderous snippets – or zombies… or sex stuff)) and so then I realized this was photo journalism and it was so well done.

    Great job at respecting this young woman’s privacy – while also documenting for social awareness. Well done and powerful.

  2. As Yvette said, this was wonderfully told with the style of a narrative fiction. Great photojournalism and in low light too – images flowed as the words flowed. I’m quite amazed you got up close to the bag of paint she left behind, and thought it would be a piece of evidence you should not touch. Then again, your photo showed that the bag was being held by the authorities and maybe they were nice enough to let you near. Sometimes some of us just need to find our way, and hope the girl does.

    • Unfortunately I didn’t have a fixed focal length lens on that would enable me to shoot more clearly in the low light. On the other hand, the high pixilation and blur allows for reasonable generation of facial characteristics but allowing the girl some anonymity. That was sheer luck.

      The bag was held by the shopper who followed the girl out of the mall. He recovered the bag from where she left it.

      It was a lot of money she paid for all that paint. I can’t help but wonder if she abandoned the bag because of her high or if she came to the conclusion on her own that she had to stop what she was doing and seek help. That’s a part of the story I haven’t been able to uncover, and I am very curious about it.

    • I’ve done quite a bit of documentary photography but I seldom reveal it to others. I’m extremely critical of my own work. When it comes to documentary I only want to produce work that I’m confident will impact people enough that they’ll start thinking and talking to each other about what to do to fix bad situations revealed or perpetuate positive aspects of life for all people. Despite my attempts, I have yet to achieve that goal.

    • One of the reasons why I don’t show too much of the documentary work I’ve done is because so much of it has inevitably been about addition. It makes my documentary photography seem as though that’s all that I cover.

      It goes to show just how pervasive addiction it is in society. I can come across it by happenstance. It takes effort to record life that isn’t touched by it.

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