A Photographer’s Project Showcases the Toll of Addiction, and How Addiction Treatment Might Help
London-based photographer Roman Sakovich recently released a project of before and after photos: entitled “Half,” the project is photographs of persons before abusing drugs, and after abusing drugs. Unlike usual before and after photos though, the dual state of minds—abuser and non-abuser—are represented in one body, as the person in the photograph is nearly split down the middle, non-abuser on the left, abuser on the right.
At first glance, the photographer’s intent seems to be to showcase the physical effects of drug abuse (Sakovich says specifically the effects of using crystal meth). The right side of each model is harrowingly estranged from the model’s left side. The face is sallow and swollen; some people’s cheeks are cut or bruised, and almost all of them have dark circles under their eyes. Their hair is matted, and unkempt, and their clothes are dirty and torn. While one side seems to be carefully manicured, the other is in total disarray. Sakovich told The Huffington Post that the photographs were inspired in part by watching his friends’ physical features be ravaged by the abuse of drugs.
Sakovich’s intent goes beyond initial reactions though, and his intent seems to be to raise questions about the stereotypes surrounding those who abuse substances. For instance, in one of the photos a woman is half businesswoman, with neat, straight hair and makeup, while her other half sports torn clothing, wild hair, and a bruised and bloated face. The woman wasn’t born an addict. Rather, she was a hardworking woman befallen by some disaster that could strike any of us, and she needs the help of addiction treatment to return to the version of herself on the left, her former self.
And then there’s a third way to look at Sakovich’s photos. The artist’s choice to visually split the models—to represent the clean and the addict in one body—seems to depict a battle between the two, as if the person who is abusing substances is clashing with the person who is not. It seems to me that these photographs are a representation of the addict’s mind when coming to substance abuse rehab; it is a mind that is split, confused, and trying to balance two desire: the desire to use, and the desire to live a healthy life.