Featured post

Sofa Portraits now available for pre-order

  1.          Sofa Portraits is now available for pre-order from my website (orders will deliver in October/November)   The pric...

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

3 Idiots

For a short time,  3 Idiots was the highest grossing Indian movie of all time. Released in 2009, it tells the story of 3 classmates studying engineering at university. Aamir Khan plays Rancho, a wealthy genius who never gets anything wrong. His buddies are Farhan (who really wants to be a wildlife photographer but is studying Engineering because of his dad) and Raju, who is poor and wants to improve the lot of his family.

Everything is as well-tended and prosperous as ever in Bollywoodland, even though Farhan comes from a lower-middle class family and Raju from an impoverished family with a comically paralysed father and a complaining mother.

The genius of  Bollywood is that even this touch of reality is distanced from the contemporary Indian fantasy land by being shot in black and white, in a pastiche of Satyajit Ray. So instead of the family being represented as part of contemporary India, the discourse is purposefully made to be 1950s India. A cinematic simulation that distorts the original Ray cinematography - and the hardship, pressures and dilemmas that it represented so perfectly. Similarly, the slightly worn look of Farhan's family home is distanced by being shot in 1970s style. The visual discourse distances the reality from the present, but also diminishes the past, reinventing the narrative of film, social and economic history in the process.

I wonder if the same thing doesn't happen in documentary photography and photojournalism, if the visual discourse doesn't distance what we see from the present by virtue of codes and conventions that go beyond the generic to place the images into an imagined time. Not just in the Baudrillardian video game sense, but in a more dynamic way in which the pictures from our past, our visual history, is redefined by those we see in the present - and the way that we see them.

By the same token, aren't the pictures that touch and move us those that carry into the present and the future. How they do this remains something of a mystery - or does it. Foam Magazine has its What's Next
site up but it is a bit underwhelming. I think Alec Soth nails what's next  - "What's Next is what always was: the story."

So there you go. Tell a great story. It really is that simple.

Back on 3 Idiots, it tells a great story and is an entertaining enough film in its cynical way, strolling through the lifestyles of an imaginary university and ticking off every emotional box in quick order (and you get the feeling that they really did have a page and really did tick off each of the boxes as they were shot), with a fine line in visual humour. But Aamir Khan's knowing-it-all, Jesus/Krishna/Mohammed-in-one schtick is more than a little wearing, and for some reason his range of expressions gone down from 3 to 2 - still one more than Salman Khan, mind, but at least 2 less than Shah Rukh Khan.

So 3 Idiots is a great story. But it doesn't have a heart, much less a soul. And that makes a difference.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Tourists, Haiti and Libya

A town in Colombia has banned tourists.  There are many interesting things about this. It hints at the true nature of eco-tourism, a phrase that, along with green cars, is one of the great oxymorons of our time. The role cameras played in this rejection is also interestin:

"Tourists come and shove a camera in our faces," he said. "Imagine if you were sitting in your home and strangers came in and started taking photos of you. You wouldn't like it."

I think this approach is not subject to just tourist pictures (is there still that tourist/traveller conceit? Does that still exist?) but also to photojournalism, fine art, documentary and street photography, duh! It's the intersection of gazes with knobs on if you like. I'm quite sure that shoving a camera in people's faces is  the essential working practice of most photographers, however much we can rationalise it into something different. 
Sometimes people like it ("Thank you Sarkozy, Thank you David Cameron"), sometimes, as with the Indians in Colombia, they don't.  Some people are open to the vision that we foist upon them, or foist their vision of themselves onto us. The problem is sometimes people know why they are being photographed, and how they are being photographed. This could be a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes, even the photographer knows why they photographing and the way that they are photographing - but, from my own experience, I don't think this is as often as we think. A case in point is Libya, where what is going on is... No, somebody tell me, what is going on? What is a revolution? What is a rebel? What is a coalition? And who will be thanking whom in 5 years time?

....At a nearby village, Robuste, dozens of excited children ambush me. Not many strangers come here, and they are intrigued. Even in the middle of horrific poverty, the people have not lost their sense of humour. I raise my camera to take a picture, and an old woman immediately begins weeping and howling. Shocked, I lower the camera, and she points at me and roars with laughter. It was a joke, and a clever one: she was satirising the usual news-agency photos. But most of the devastation here is all too real. In the hurricanes, half the houses in Robuste were washed away....

Here's the Colombia story -

Just off the Amazon River, lies the village of Nazareth.
But don't think about dropping by. Tired of being a curiosity to the outside world, the indigenous people have banned tourists.

Thousands of adventurous, backpacking tourists flock to southern Colombia every year, drawn by eco-tourism and the hope of interacting with the peoples who live and commune with the Amazon jungle following age-old traditions.

The Colombian Amazon, a peninsula sandwiched between Brazil and Peru, is famed for its spectacular flora and fauna, some of the most varied on the planet.

Last year 35,000 tourists poured into the region to swing with the monkeys, swim with the famed pink dolphins that frolic in the Amazon waters or to fish for piranhas.

But here in Nazareth, guards armed with their traditional sticks stand ready to deter unwelcome visitors. And the very few who are invited to visit with the community of about 800 residents must register with the guards and show an ID.

The village, reached by a 20-minute boatride from the nearest town of Leticia, has been off-limits to visitors for the past two years.

Elders say the indigenous people, composed some 80 percent of Ticuna indians, do not benefit from the growth in tourism across the region."This was a decision taken at an important assembly of the inhabitants," said Juvencio Pereira, an indigenous guard, who stands watch at the guards' cabin. "What we earn here is very little. Tourists come here, they buy a few things, a few artisanal goods, and they go. It is the travel agencies that make the good money."

The Ticuna people are one of the most endangered communities on Earth, with the United Nations having counted their remaining numbers at only around 30,000. And they are fearful of seeing their culture eroded by prying visitors.
"We had lots of problems. People came, left their rubbish behind, garbage bags, plastic bottles," explained resident Grimaldo Ramos.

"Tourists come and shove a camera in our faces," he said. "Imagine if you were sitting in your home and strangers came in and started taking photos of you. You wouldn't like it.
"Now the tourists can't just come as they please. They need the permission of the assembly."

Nazareth's actions reveal a split among the indigenous communities that live along the river about what role tourism should play in the region's development. With the rise of eco-tourism, the Amazon has seen a flood of travelers arriving to experience the world's most biologically diverse region.
According to the Tourism Office for the Colombian province of Amazonas, the 35,000 people who trekked to the region in 2010, represent a five-fold surge in numbers over the past eight years.
But as Nazareth complains, the indigenous people have so far seen little of the benefits, mostly just the sharp end of tourism.
There are also worries that indigenous children are adopting the speech and dress of these visitors, forgetting the customs of their forefathers.

For a tourist interacting with a local may seem like little more than polite curiosity in indigenous culture. But some questions can appear intrusive and even an attempt by an outside to gain sacred tribal knowledge.

"We don't like it when they ask members of the community about our traditional knowledge and the medicines we possess," said Pereira. "If we don't preserve (our culture), in the next 30 years it will all be finished."

Other communities however take the view that tourism is inevitable so they might as well make money from it.
A couple of hours down river lies Puerto Narino. It hosts a steady flow of visitors, but all must use the travel agencies based in the town.

Puerto Narino Mayor Nelson Ruiz understands Nazareth's worries, but says that if tourism is well-regulated it can help lift these communities out of poverty. "Other communities fear tourism can damage culture, damage our water resources with trash, destroy the environment, we don't want that," he says, adding visitors are expected to abide by certain rules such as no drug-taking and no sexual tourism.

In Leticia on which the indigenous community depends, a spokesman said that "no study has yet shown any negative impact on the environment due to the rise in tourism."
But Juan Carlos Bernal, in charge of environment and development in the town, says that under Colombian law the native people are free to regulate access to their community.
He maintains that in all other aspects the indigenous peoples are well integrated into local life, which has a primary school run by Catholics.

For the residents back in Nazareth though, the loss of tourist revenue is a trade-off worth making. "We feel good here without tourists, there are no little annoyances," added Ramos.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Search questions

These are some of the search questions that led people to this blog over the last week. Any Answers?

Did Francis Bacon influence Jill Greenberg?

Can dogs really play poker?

How did John Heartfield create his posters?

What is Tory Scum?

How does Shah Rukh Khan edit photos?

Where does Myra Hindley stand in feminist categorical theory?

Was Sally Mann ever arrested? 

Where can I buy unobtainium?

What is the effect on a child whose mother works?

How do I get that Daido Moriyama look?

What are two novels with the same theme?

What can I do with leftover pallets?

How do I play Baby Tennis?

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Floating Portrait of Hitler's Head

The above picture is from a US archive set of unearthed images of  Eva Braun (sunbathing, partying, hanging out with Nazis, in blackface..) from the Daily Mail, the questions being what does 'unearthed mean' and why is there a Getty stamp on them? Most impressive is the World of Interiors portrait of Hitler - his head is kind of floating. Even more impressive are the comments - if you ever need a collective commentary of the readership of the Daily Mail, look no further than some of the comments. My favourite:

The Nazis did believe in political correctness. Not the same political correctness that pollutes Britain these days, but a very strict form of political correctness nonetheless. And it was rigorously enforced with guns and concentration camps, which at least isn't happening here. Yet.

Read more about what 'unearthed' means but not why they have a Getty stamp  here.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Africa, Midsomer Murders and the Tsunami

Proving that often it's what you don't show that matters is this exhibition of African maps from the Royal Geographical Society.

There are trade maps, tribal maps, cultural maps and colonial maps, the empty spaces of the latter showing an unpopulated land ripe for exploitation - a very different view to the tribal map also shown.

Listen to this fascinating audio slideshow here (Thanks Marta).

But what you show and what you don't show help create their own mythology. What is being shown and not shown (or told) in the Japanese tsunami?

In the UK, what is the relationship between English Landscape photography and the nation's idealised vision of its own countryside - a vision in the news this week as it emerges that not one black character has appeared in the English detective series, Midsomer Murders. Not one! Because there are no black people in the English countryside - they don't visit, they don't live there, they don't pass through. Or do they? And to have any would spoil the series. Or would it?

"We just don’t have ethnic minorities involved," said the drama’s producer and co-creator Brian True-May, in an outburst that has seen him suspended from his role, pending an investigation."It wouldn’t be the English village with them. It just wouldn’t work. Suddenly we might be in Slough."Should he find himself looking |for a new job, an Operation Trident officer in his own fictional Midsomer would be a particularly cushy number. There have been 222 murders in the supposedly sleepy county since it came to ITV in 1997, every one of them white-on-white. "We’re the last bastion of Englishness," he said. "I want to keep it that way." 


Several of the small market town’s residents have played extras in the long-running series. But Mohammed Shah Zillur Rahman, manager of the local Indian-Bangladeshi restaurant, hasn’t. Neither has any of his staff. Nor those at the nearby Wallingford Tandoori, nor the Turkish kebab shop, the two Chinese restaurants and the Portuguese family who run the chippy.

Read the whole story here.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Suffragette Arboretum

There was a fascinating pop-up show at Bath Central Library at the weekend, on the Suffragettes' Arboretum/Annie's Garden at Eagle House in Batheaston. This was a refuge where suffragettes would 'recuperate after a spell in prison, and a place to organise their campaigns in the west country'. Annie Kenney, pictured top, was a northern, working class suffragette, but Emmeline Pankhurst paid a visit as did other members of the Pankhurst family (Adela is in the bottom picture). The owners of Eagle House distanced themselves from the suffragette movement after its actions became more direct and effective. There is housing now where Eagle House and the arboretum once stood.

More pictures here.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Khaled: I will go to jail with a big smile

Khaled going to jail with a big smile.

Sue Lloyd Roberts is a British journalist with an accent from the 1930s. Her report from Saudi Arabia on BBC Newsnigh.was excellent. In Riyadh, she reported on the Day of Rage, a demonstration which 30,000 people had signed up for on Facebook.

But following government threats and a flood of police and security onto the site of the demonstration, precisely nobody turned up (which was not the case in other parts of the country). So Roberts' minders shepherded her to the scene.

"Report what you see," said the inspectors in charge.

Roberts saw nothing. Then Khaled, a 40-year-old teacher, drove up in his sports car. This is what he said. 

Khaled: I need freedom. I need democracy. The Royal Family don't own us. I have a right to speak.  They will put you in jail after five minutes if you speak, if you say anything. Everybody here wants to go to jail because all the country is a big jail."

SLR: What do you think will happen to you now you've spoken out?

Khaled: I will go to jail with a big smile... because when you don't have the right to speak, you are in jail.

At the end of his demonstration of one, Khaled drove off followed by a police car and that is the last that Roberts heard of him.

Friday, 11 March 2011

My Favourite Iranian Film: The Lizard aka Marmulak

From Ahangaran to a diametrically opposed piece of culture in the form of my favourite Iranian film, The Lizard, aka Marmulak

"Marmoolak" (The Lizard), a film by Iranian director Kamal Tabrizi about a convict who

escapes prison in the cloak and turban of a cleric and becomes an accidental mullah, was a

huge hit in Iran. Ticket lines snaked around theaters. People bought tickets days in advance,

breaking Iranian box-office records. Everyone, from schoolchildren to grandmothers,

talked about the film. All wondered, out loud, how such an open criticism of the clergy

could receive a screening permit from this theocratic regime.  The film was banned in

Iran after only 3 weeks."


See the whole film here.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Music for Martyrs

From Rishi Kapoor to Ahangaran and his music for martyrs; how to die on the road to Karbala during the Iran-Iraq war. He sends chills down my spine for many reasons.

Sadeq Ahangaran: "As I was singing, I was aware some of them would be martyred, some would be prisoners of war, some would be injured and some return. I was completely aware of it."

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The Parda Hai girls

One of the interesting things about photography compared to film is you don't get random people in photography. If something is worth noticing, it gets noticed, however small the detail might be. Any randomness gets randomed out in the reviewing. This is not the case in film.

Continuing on the Manmohan Desai theme of the previous post, my favourite random film detail comes in the great man's unlikely-but-brilliant epic, Amar Akbar Anthony.

It's the two random girls who are sitting right behind Neetu Singh (as Rishi Kapoor/M.Rafi sings Parda Hai Parda) that fascinate me - their dress, their contrasting demeanour and their behaviour. They stay sitting throughout the song, even when almost everyone else is clapping, dancing and generally giving it some. One looks Goan, the other Bengali. Who are these people - daughters of the director or producer or someone else?  If you know, do tell me, if you don't just make it up.

Below are the lyrics. I love the fact that you have a hindu playing a muslim asking a hindu (playing a muslim) to remove her veil. Then best of all, the film was watched by hindus and muslims the world over, all made in Bollywood, by perhaps the most secular bunch of Indians that ever lived.

Here are the lyrics to Parda Hai.

Let me me pour some wine on this youth
And throw this rose towards a beauty
There is a veil
There is a veil
There is a veil, there is a veil, behind the veil there is a secret
And if this secret is not unveiled by me
Then my name is not Akbar

There is a veil

Wherever I look, people will look there as well

They want to see where my gaze stops at

Oh princess of my dreams, I am Akbar of Ilaahabad

I am a poet of the beautiful, I'm a lover of the shy

I will not leave your side, I will tear apart every curtain (seperating us))

Don't be afraid of this tyrant world, due to grace or pretense

Come, show your face, and make this occassion beautiful

Otherwise by taking your name, I will make some allegation

And if I not dishonor you in this gathering

Then Akbar is not my name

Give thanks to God, (her) face has been seen

But even so, the color of shame is still shining in her eyes

While someone is losing his life, someone else is feeling shy

Someone is shedding tears, and someone is smiling

My beloved frequently enjoys torturing me like this
This is her custom, the cruelty she is famous for

Do hide your face, being angered, but remember this, oh beautiful one

The fire that is your youth, My love is like cold water

And if do not cool your anger

Then Akbar is not my name..

Monday, 7 March 2011

Coolie, Scousers, Harry Enfield and the Bollywood Tamil Stereotypes

Enough of success and collaboration,  to celebrate Liverpool, here is a little bit of Visual History, courtesy of Manmohan Desai, Bollywood film director and master of the unlikely plot.

In Desai's 1983 hit, Coolie, Rishi Kapoor plays second fiddle to Amitabh Bachchan in his role as Sunny. The top picture shows Sunny disguising himself as a Tamil. Note the moustache and bubble perm. The second picture shows Harry Enfield's scousers who were supposedly inspired by Liverpool footballer Terry McDermott. But knowing that Harry Enfield is a big fan of Bollywood, and Amitabh Bachchan in particular, Rishi Kapoor's role in Coolie seems the obvious inspiration for the scousers.  Is Chennai twinned with Liverpool? Perhaps it should be.

The other interesting thing about Coolie is the use of a bird of prey as a hero, which reminds me of Ken Loach's Kes. Ken Loach, Bollywood, Manmohan Desai - can I make something up to tie all those together or is that going too far?

Anyway, you can see Rishi Kapoor being a Scouser/Tamil here.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Steve Davis's Collaborative project

Steve Davis works with prisoners in the United States. One of his projects featured pinhole photography taken by the girls of Remann Hall, in Tacoma, Washington

What is your day job?

I'm the Coordinator of Photography and adjunct faculty member at the Evergreen State College, in Olympia, WA

How did you get involved in this collaborative project?

I had been working with a nonprofit group called The Experimental Gallery that brought artists into juvenile sites of incarceration.  This work came from working with incarcerated girls to construct a museum installation, which was to contain some of their photography.  It was more difficult than other similar projects, because this place was not a long term facility, so the participants changed almost weekly.

How did you gain access to the people in the project?

I was asked by the coordinator of the Experimental Gallery to both document the arts project and lead a group into their own photographic work, which were the pinhole images.  So, the girls were basically screened and selected by people other than myself.

Is there anything you could not gain access to?

Faces, for the most part.  They were off limits for this project.  This limitation had a lot to do with me wanting to give them pinhole cameras.  The long exposures and lack of detail pretty much eliminated any possibility of identification.

What were the problems with photographing this subject?

Shooting and giving cameras to the incarcerated is generally  full of problems.  Cameras are confiscated, seemingly benign subjects are off limits, things like that.  And as I mentioned, my group was a revolving door, so the mission had to be simple.

What did you hope to achieve by doing this project?

In addition to my own portraiture, I was excited about this work because the girls were not asked to "document" life behind bars.  As their camera exposures would be as high as 15 minutes, the kids had to plan, conceptualize, and essentially perform for the cameras.  It was more theatrical, emotional, and far less literal.  Previously, I worked with incarcerated boys who were given relatively decent 35mm cameras, and they created fairly literal snapshots.   The cheap pinhole cameras that the girls used freed them from the clich├ęs, I think.

Were there any assumptions you had made before the project that you realised did not apply?

I assumed I would have a tighter group to work with.  Working with a new set of kids every visit made "teaching" a different experience from what I'm used to.  Other than that, I pretty much knew what to expect, based on my previous experiences with photography and incarcerated youth.

Were there any assumptions you made before starting the project that you realised did apply?

I assumed they would be very hungry for attention, and very willing to express themselves visually.  That was certainly true.

How did you fund this project?

I didn't.  Money came from grants and museum support, through the Experimental Gallery.

What constituted success for this project?

The larger project-- the museum installation was extraordinary, but the photographs that were transferred to the wall surfaces were almost invisible.  So in that respect the photography didn't see much of an audience.  I think it was successful to the girls to create and express themselves.  Eventually, Pete Brook of Prison Photography noticed them, and I think they have since received a fairly large audience.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Collaboration 3: Gemma-Rose Turnbull and The Red Light Dark Room


Gemma-Rose Turnbull is an Australian photographer working with sex workers in St Kilda in The Red Light Dark Room.

What is your day job?

I am an Australian photographer, who specialises in photographing the lives of women. I studied documentary photography at the Queensland College of Art, graduating in 2005. I have worked as a newspaper photographer, a freelance photojournlist, a Photojournalism lecturer and a photographer since graduating. 

How did you get involved in this collaborative project?

In early 2010 I was awarded an Australia Council for the Arts Connections Residency to do a residency with non-profit organisation St Kilda Gatehouse to teach, photograph and interview the marginalised women who use their services. More than 250 rolls of film were shot by nine women to produce a hardcover book, which is a combination of their photographs, my photographs, interviews and stories.

I conceived the project after spending two days at St Kilda Gatehouse in November 2009. I was profoundly effected by the service they offered, and on very little money. They are completely donor funded, and I was determined to find a way to use my skills to help raise money for them. We are aiming to sell 1,000 books and raise $50,000 for them.  
How did you gain access to the people in the project?

Street sex work, which involves the trading of sexual services for money or drugs at the street level, is a particularly hazardous and stressful occupation. Those engaged in street sex work tend to be the most marginalised, oppressed, and stigmatised. These women face many daily challenges, including physical and sexual assaults, ill treatment by the public, housing instability, incarcerations and continued financial difficulties.

Because of these things it is hard to build trust with and engage women who work in the profession, however working with St Kilda Gatehouse allowed me to build on the trust they had already established. This allowed the project to come about much more quickly than it otherwise would have.

Is there anything you cannot gain access to?

The reality is there are lots of places a camera can’t go with this project. It can’t walk with me into the Children’s Court where I spend a day sitting with one of the women, keeping her company while she fights for custody of her three-week-old daughter, nor can I take it into loiterer’s court. I can’t document the woman I visit in the high dependency unit in the psych ward. I can’t go into a police interview room with it. And I can’t take the image of a woman left diminished in her prison uniform, sitting in jail; a shaky lip and arms carved with scars and tattoos, the visible remnants of her outside life.

What are the problems with photographing this subject?

Photographing people whose permission is compromised by their vulnerability, or by their life controlling drug addiction is an ethical minefield. I have been very careful to not intrude on their lives too much, and have mostly stepped back and allowed them to photograph to their level of comfort.

What do you hope to achieve by doing this project?

The three main outcomes I am hoping to achieve are to engage the women in something meaningful, that in some way gives them a sense of achievement. To raise money to support the organisation that continues to support them, and to produce a body of work that helps humanise the women who work as street sex workers in St Kilda.

Were there any assumptions you had made before the project that you realised did not apply?

I assumed that I would photograph much more than I actually did. The lack of photographing was about gaining trust. It took me a long time to get the women comfortable in my presence, let alone in front of my gaze. They disappear if I pull it out too soon, or push it too far. And I can understand. They are a group of people who are among the most victimised and vilified in our society. Identity is one of the only, very small, powers they can wield. And before they hand their visage over to me, they need to trust I am going to honour that gift.

I feel very reconciled with that though, it’s a collaborative project, and together we have made a whole body of work.

Were there any assumptions you made before starting the project that you realised did apply?

There is always some basis in stereotypes. The images we see of street sex workers are based in accuracy; the majority of them are drug affected, many come from abusive domestic backgrounds and situations and homelessness. But they are, of course, far more than those stereotypes. 

How do you fund this project?

I was supported by grants from The Australia Arts Council, and the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust.

What constitutes success for this project?

Success is measure in tiny incremental goals along the way. It’s someone discovering how to focus a camera, or someone being excited by the photographs they have taken. Someone relishing the opportunity to share their story. For me it’s taking time to get to know and care about the people I am working with, rather than running through their lives and taking their images from them for my own personal gain. 

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Collaboration 2: Tony Fouhse and Stephanie

"Ok Tony, did you start this project to get attention on your blog or did you do it to actually help me?"

That is the starting point of Stephanie's interview with Tony Fouhse.
Tony is a photographer, Stephanie is a woman who is a heroin addict. Tony is trying to work with Stephanie to document her addiction and hopefully her recovery. You can read all about it on Drool (with a dedicated website/blog coming later).

What is your day job?

I'm an editorial and commercial photographer.

How did you get involved in this collaborative project?

I have a history, in my personal projects, of collaborating with the people I photograph. In some projects (American States, for instance) that collaboration is fleeting.  In other projects I'll return to the same place and people over the course of 2 or 3 or 4 years.

How did you gain access to the people in the project?

I met Stephanie (who is a heroin addict) last summer while I was shooting USER (which, itself, was a 4 year collaboration with a group of crack addicts).  Of all the addicts I met on that corner there was just something about her that I was really, really drawn to. Her openness and honesty and her ability to get in touch with her emotions, show them to me and allow me to photograph them.  I asked her if I could help her in some way and she asked me to help her get into a rehab program.  She didn't have even one piece of ID so we set about getting her paperwork in order and we are just now beginning to make appointments (to make further appointments) to find her some help.  The Canadian health care system is overburdened and 
everything seems to take a long time.

Is there anything you cannot gain access to?

Lots.  The risk-reduction house (run by a religious organization) where Stephanie lives won't allow me into her room, nor may I photograph the workers there. Some of the government and hospital locations we go to won't allow photography, either. There are also some aspects of Stephanie's life that are out of bounds

What are the problems with photographing this subject?

Stephanie is, despite her openness and participation in this project, also a reserved, private person. There are aspects of her life that she won't give me access to. As well, there are aspects of her life that I'm not interested in photographing. This was never conceived as a "documentary" project.  I'm a portrait photographer and, while there are some "documentary" aspects to what we're doing together, by far the majority of the images are setup, lit portraits. One other problem (if you want to call it that) is that Steph often (about half the time) 
doesn't show up. When she does show up, about half the time she is so fucked up that I spend all my energy dealing with that, trying to help and comfort her, rather than thinking about, or taking, photos.

What do you hope to achieve by doing this project?

Primarily, I want to see Stephanie get into a good rehab program and get straight.  I also hope to get a series of portraits of her that show that trip.

Were there any assumptions you had made before the project that you realised did not apply?

Yes. I (stupidly) thought that her concerns might have a certain overlap with mine.  Of course, other than the trying-to-get-into-rehab-and-get-straight thing, her concerns are totally different from mine.

Were there any assumptions you made before starting the project that you realised did apply?

I thought that I might be able to maintain enough distance to remain, if not untouched, at least slightly removed.  This hasn't happened.....I've been swept up.

How do you fund this project?

I use the money I make shooting for magazines, ad agencies and corporations.

What constitutes success for this project?

See answer to what I hope to achieve with this project.