Accepted paper:

Frontline: A Photo-Ethnography of Drug Using Environments


Stephen Parkin (University of Huddersfield)

Paper short abstract:

This exhibition will provide an understanding of a particular health inequality (and related social suffering)concerning the appropriation of public places for the purpose of injecting drug use, alongside an appreciation of the applied nature of visual methods.

Paper long abstract:

This proposed photographic exhibition concerns the topic of injecting drug use and the environments used for the injection of heroin and crack-cocaine. This exhibition has emerged from over 5 years of ethnographic fieldwork conducted by the photographer/author as part of three separate studies of street-based injecting drug use located throughout the UK. These studies have involved visits to almost 200 public settings affected by injecting episodes and/or drug-related litter in addition to interviews/attachment with 72 injecting drug users and 170 agency representatives.

The exhibition consists of selected images taken during ethnographic data collection within drug using environments. An estimated 100 photographs will be used to provide a 'photo-ethnography' of injecting drug use in street-based settings. These images will be organised into three themes; place, litter and management.

The exhibition aims to provide a meaningful insight into the lives of some of society's most vulnerable members. Individuals who resort to injecting within public settings are typically homeless with long term dependency issues and entrenched injecting lifestyles. This exhibition does not aim to glorify or demonise injecting drug use/rs, but instead portray the environmental settings of drug dependency and homelessness. However, the exhibition is primarily an attempt to raise awareness of the harms associated with public injecting drug use via visual media. A further aim is to demonstrate the way in which applied visual methods may provide service relevant data that have the potential to motivate development and/or intervention within local settings.

panel V06
Photography as a research method