Cocaine Blue Cocaine True

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Cocaine Blue Cocaine True

Eugene Richards has had a long and celebrated career of documenting the perils of humanity. He is a photographer, writer, teacher, and storyteller for the common people. He has nine books to his name, which can attest to these titles. In his first monograph, Few Comforts of Surprises, he tackled the pains of poverty in the Arkansas Delta. He also miraculously found his way into an Emergency Room to make his award winning The Knife and Gun Club. In his latest book titled Cocaine True Cocaine Blue (1994), Richards goes into three of the most drug plagued, and crime ridden areas of America: East New York; North Philadelphia; and the Red Hook Housing Project in Brooklyn, New York.

This work follows in that of the purveyors of documentary photography. Like Richards, Jacob Riss went into the city slums a century earlier armed with a camera. In New York, Riss saw a glut of people, mostly immigrants, jammed packed together and feebly existing in filth. Riss, who was primarily a writer, found that his words were not communicating the ailments of society to the public as he wished. Then, the primitive flash was invented. Riss saw this as way to communicate the troubles he saw in the dark areas where the grossly impoverished lived. The outcome of Riss’ efforts was a startlingly powerful book of his images and text appropriately titled How the Other Half Lives. Though the photographic equipment has change through this time span, the aim of the photographers is the same: to educate the rest of the world of those that are forgotten or ignored, and in that way, bring about change.

Eugene Richards stays faithful to the amalgamation of photographs and words like that of How the Other Half Lives. In Cocaine, Richards, along with the additional reportage of Time magazine correspondent Edward Barnes, not only gives a running commentary of the horrors that his subjects face, but gives a voice to the voiceless by letting the people tell their own story. This proves to be a greatly effective means of objectively educating the public on the plight of the people that the images present. Therefore, the viewer is not looking at just another junkie cooking up, but a person with a name and a history: i.e. Kerrie, a girl that has prostituted her body since the age of fifteen to support herself.
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