Canadian photographer Aaron Goodman, for example, documented the daily lives of three long-term drug users from 2015 to 2016, all of whom were taking part in North America’s first clinical trial of a heroin-assisted treatment program. “Photography is limited in communicating everything,” he told Artsy. “There needs to be narration or some accompaniment to contextualize.” To combat the dominant tropes of drug photography, Goodman showed his three subjects the photographs and asked them to respond; their words accompany each photograph in the series.
In one image, Cheryl—one of Goodman’s subjects—injects heroin into her thigh. The photograph could be read as a standard injection scene, like any found in “Tulsa” or anti-drug propaganda. Contextualized by Cheryl’s words, however, this scene develops a different meaning. She explains that she is injecting herself at the program’s site, and with clinical, non-contaminated heroin. “I want to show the people that this place is where we get our injections for our heroin opiate program,” says Cheryl, “[and] that we need these places so heroin addicts can get off the streets.” With his project, Goodman says, “I’m calling on the viewer to listen to the drug user—in their own words. The drug use is not important, it’s secondary. What’s important to me are the people’s backstories, and the issues that they’re facing on a particular day.”