Hillbilly heroin, honey

The photos were shot in a dying coal-mining town called St Charles, situated in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains in the USA, hidden by the fog. The mines have been closed down, one by one, and with them work opportunities needed for the survival of the community have disappeared. The use of OxyContin, a painkiller that has the side effect of killing all feelings, is more common in St Charles than anywhere else in the USA (according to local press at that time 2006). The drug is locally called “hillbilly heroin”. If consumed in big quantities, its effects are reminiscent of those caused by heroine.

This was my first bigger photo series I conducted and for me tacking pictures and coming close to the people I meet there affected me greatly, it became my heroin. That is the reason for the title.

I mostly photographed young men. Expectations on them as providers and macho men in a society where there is no work made their expression stronger. I wanted to portray their innocence against the background of the brutal reality in which they lived. I want my pictures to leave the feeling of vacuum and timelessness that hit me during my time in St Charles. I do not focus on the poverty, the drugs or the society problems. The crack in the soul is more important than the one on the wall.

I want people to be mentally exhausted by seeing all these shut in feelings. I also felt strongly for the people and the love for the mountains, that was beautiful. I attach great importance to how body posters and body’s movements are. What I’m particularly attracted to is subtle small searching movements. Cautious little hidden movements fascinate me. Postures and facial expressions that bear witness to the feelings that are not allowed to run free.