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The abnormal has become the norm
September 15, 2009 5:37 PM   Subscribe

Brenda Kenneally documents the effects of illegal drugs in her Brooklyn, New York neighborhood. Money Power Respect and Big Trigg. NSFW [previous comment]
posted by tellurian (29 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Any idea where in Brooklyn this is? I couldn't find any info on the site.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:01 PM on September 15, 2009


Wow - beautiful, crushing. Can't look at the whole thing now, but I'm looking forward to giving it the time it deserves soon.
posted by deliquescent at 6:03 PM on September 15, 2009


Great stuff. I noticed that The Raw File has some links down the page to more videos featuring the same subjects.
posted by selfnoise at 6:05 PM on September 15, 2009


these people don't interest me anymore.
posted by billybobtoo at 6:09 PM on September 15, 2009


More like the effects of poverty, joblessness, hopelessness and our drug *policy*... very powerful.
posted by Maias at 6:11 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nope sorry. Flash-only design with browser-window maximizing behavior have me not reading this website.
posted by hippybear at 6:12 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Any idea where in Brooklyn this is? I couldn't find any info on the site.
"During the seven years that I lived on the border of Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant I photographed, wrote about and made video recordings of the families on my block."
posted by tellurian at 6:15 PM on September 15, 2009


Wow.....amazing pictures. Under the fay images I was just crushed to see her son, first, drinking juice out of a bowl like an animal and then seeing her friend hold he son while bagging drugs is just crushing.
posted by lilkeith07 at 6:17 PM on September 15, 2009


Nope sorry. Flash-only design with browser-window maximizing behavior have me not reading this website.

I sympathize, hate that stuff too, but the photos and yes, Flash presentation are pretty good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:34 PM on September 15, 2009


These are wonderful photos. Really remarkable. I've worked with a lot of junkies, and I still wonder why they live the way they do. There is something that I just don't get and probably never will. What is it about drugs that makes some people destroy themselves?

The good news is that there is help, and I hope the people in these moving photos get it.
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:54 PM on September 15, 2009


Absolutely fantastic. One of the best links I've ever seen on Metafilter. Thanks!
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 7:01 PM on September 15, 2009


Yeah, this is really great.
posted by snofoam at 7:11 PM on September 15, 2009


and what happened to big trigg?
posted by snofoam at 7:25 PM on September 15, 2009


I wish websites like these would have a "just show me the pictures with captions" button ala the "print button" some news websites have.

Great and interesting photos, but it's just too painful to sit and mouseover each one to find out the backstory. Has to stop after only watching "the block" section.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 7:38 PM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Amazing, and fucking heartbreaking.
posted by homuncula at 7:38 PM on September 15, 2009


Thanks for the post. So far I just looked at money power respect and plan to go look at the rest soon. Nice documentary work, sad subject matter, sad stories. I especially appreciate the effort she made to document her community.
posted by phogirl at 7:43 PM on September 15, 2009


What is it about drugs that makes some people destroy themselves?

What is it about life that makes some people destroy themselves with drugs?

It's just the price some pay to feel good. Depending on the drug, and their situation, the price is higher sometimes. It always costs more to those who have less.

It's not much different than a loan shark.

(I'm specifically referring to crack and heroin. I'm all for decriminalization of some drugs, but for these in particular, my opinion is to keep it criminal, but sentencing can only be proper treatment, not incarceration. Putting them in a box and saying "no drugs for you" is only going to work as long as you keep them in a box. Helping them to want something other than drugs is the only sensible alternative.)

I don't want to hijack this into a decriminalization discussion, but I thought it necessary to frame it that way to put into context the feeling of "What are we to do about this?"
posted by chambers at 7:45 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great and interesting photos, but it's just too painful to sit and mouseover each one to find out the backstory.

Click on pretty much any square except the one you clicked on and the photos will play with audio commentary.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 8:08 PM on September 15, 2009


"Great and interesting photos, but it's just too painful to sit and mouseover each one to find out the backstory. I just don't care"

Pssh.

And exactly which white man's project was this? cause ain't no A+ certification courses in those neighborhoods. You are no better than a drug dealer if you are eating off of these folks misery.
posted by Student of Man at 8:19 PM on September 15, 2009


Brenda is an amazing photographer and and even more amazing person. She's been doing these stories for going on 2 decades and she's done them while living largely on the fringe herself.

She loves and cares about all of the people she documents and you can see it in her images.
posted by photoslob at 8:29 PM on September 15, 2009


What is it about drugs that makes some people destroy themselves?

This question encapsulates everything that's wrong with the way we understand drug policy. Drugs are a source of pleasure and escape-- just like sex, gambling, food, the internet, work and many, many other things. A *small* percentage of drug users-- similarly with gambling, sex, internet, work, etc-- will lose control over their behavior in relation to these activities because their lives are otherwise meaningless and/or pleasureless and/or miserable.

What do I mean by a small percent? With cocaine and heroin, it's between 10-20%, similar for alcohol. For marijuana, lower; for tobacco higher. By focusing on drugs you get the problem backwards. The problem isn't drugs-- it's why are so many people so unable to experience pleasure/bereft of meaning/ in agony-- that drugs or other compulsive behavior becomes a problem for them. And why do we think that punishing such people will make them want to *stop* using?

In the lives of the people here, the answers have to do with a horrifying combination of child abuse/neglect exacerbated by poverty, lack of education and mental illness.

Addiction is *not* an equal opportunity disorder, it does not happen often (perhaps never) to people whose lives are blithe and happy and meaningful who suddenly get exposed to a drug. Those who are at highest risk are mentally ill, under uncontrollable stress, poor and less educated-- or all of the above.

Addiction risk is highest in people whose ability to experience pleasure in relationships is muted by early neglect, maltreatment and extreme stress. In rats, you can measure reduced dopamine response of mothers to babies whose mothers didn't groom them much.

Those baby rats will go on to give their own babies less grooming-- unless you foster them mothers that are more attentive, in which case they will pass on that mothering style and increased dopamine responsiveness. So, it's not genetic-- it's epigenetic.

Guess what makes rat mothers less responsive to their babies? Extreme, uncontrollable stress. Guess what marks poverty in America? Yes, uncontrollable stress. Guess which babies are more likely to respond to cocaine? Yup, the ones who had the stressed mothers who neglected them. Guess which mothers are now more likely to neglect their children, even before they take cocaine, to which they are also more likely to become addicted?

Blaming drugs for this problem is missing the point entirely.
posted by Maias at 8:30 PM on September 15, 2009 [37 favorites]


"Brenda Ann" didn't sound like a man's name, to me.
posted by pinky at 8:32 PM on September 15, 2009


Drugs kill pain, make you feel good, lower your inhibitions, give you visionary experiences, and basically do whatever it is we design, refine, grow, or ferment them to do. This is good, because we need drugs -- our society as a whole benefits from them.

However, the human body tends towards homeostasis, which means that no matter what crap we try to throw at it, the body tries to compensate. And that is where drug addiction comes in. You want to get high, but your body has already anticipated that and will try to head you off at the pass. At this point, you have two choices -- go home and sleep it off, or DO MORE DRUGS. Most people choose the former, because they've got other things in their lives that they don't want to lay waste to. But when people feel like they don't have anything else in their lives, they choose DO MORE DRUGS.

So there you have it, really. The People who DO MORE DRUGS are the people who don't feel like they have anything else going on in life.

There is actually an infinitude of ways in which our social institutions could address this problem -- unfortunately, our government has chosen the singularly most destructive and ineffective approach. Furthermore, they have mandated that it is to be the ONLY approach.

I think ultimately this will change, simply because we are running out of money and can't afford to keep locking people up. Plus, you can look at countries like the Netherlands and Portugal where they have a much more rational policy, and you don't see the fabric of their societies breaking down or anything.

The only people to whom "harm reduction" doesn't make sense are people who truly think that you can control man's appetites through legislation. And what was it that Honest Abe said about that?
"Prohibition goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was fouded."

--Abraham Lincoln
posted by Afroblanco at 9:35 PM on September 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Afroblanco,
Very sympathetic to your view. What about places like Afghanistan where opiate addiction is a massive public health crisis? Or China during the 19th century? How does a nuanced approach work there?

Serious question.
posted by wuwei at 10:30 PM on September 15, 2009


Two years ago I dated a girl who was interning for Brenda Kenneally, and I had the pleasure to spend the night one weekend at her huge and wonderfully creaky home in Bed-Stuy. The place was filled with dark and brilliant framed photographs, comics and graphic novels, old toys, and more books of photography than I have ever seen outside of a library. It was, in other words, a place where the mind cannot help but be creative.
posted by Hollow at 11:20 PM on September 15, 2009


i guess we'll have to wait indefinitely for the triumph of puritanism over pleasure.
posted by kitchenrat at 6:02 AM on September 16, 2009


hippybear: Nope sorry. Flash-only design with browser-window maximizing behavior have me not reading this website.

I hate this stuff too. But, considering the content of the site, I can't help but want to just tell you to get over yourself, for crying out loud. This is a website detailing people's pain and sadness, largely thrust upon them because they were born in the wrong time, the wrong place. You are lucky to have such things to worry about, Flash, browser-window maximizing and all.

If you choose to look away because it's hard to face sadness and personal destruction, that's one thing I can sympathize with. But because the site resizes your browser?

I live blocks from here, so maybe this just hits home. Or maybe it's because I care deeply about people. I often agree with your comments, hippybear, but your spoiled attitude here just disappoints.
posted by anthropoid at 9:11 AM on September 16, 2009


What about places like Afghanistan where opiate addiction is a massive public health crisis? Or China during the 19th century? How does a nuanced approach work there?

The same way it works everywhere else: much, much better.

If you stop trying to wipe out the only way people currently have of making a living, provide decent education, job opportunities and hope, you will massively reduce addiction. Even if some large proportion of the population remained physically dependent on opioids. (And we don't even really know the size of this problem-- we do know, historically, that in the U.S. when opium was legally available over the counter, addiction rates were about what they are now, about 1% of the population).

Being physically dependent wouldn't mean that these people couldn't function if they were not simultaneously being persecuted for for it and had an affordable supply.

Methadone maintenance works exactly the same way: if you are on a steady, regular, legal dose of opioids, you are not cognitively, emotionally and physically impaired. You can work, drive, raise a family-- anything that anyone else does. The guy who founded modern surgery, pioneered the use of gloves and sterile technique and devised many techniques still currently in use today was on morphine his entire career.

People have got to get over the idea that simple availability of a drug-- even a scary drug like opium-- is necessarily dire.
posted by Maias at 2:23 PM on September 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


What about places like Afghanistan where opiate addiction is a massive public health crisis? Or China during the 19th century? How does a nuanced approach work there?

If drugs were legal, the Taliban and Colombian paramilitaries would not be able to make massive amounts of money producing and exporting them. Were it not for drug prohibition, Afghanistan and Columbia would be far better places to live.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:42 PM on September 16, 2009


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