Molly Harris isn’t your typical photographer. Through her controversial series of photographs titled ‘Closer to Heaven’, she provides insight into the ugly world of heroin addiction. Molly’s images may not be pretty, but they will certainly make you stop, look and think. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit with Molly and ask about her work on this brave project.
‘Closer to Heaven’ arose from Molly’s curiosity about a group of women she drove past regularly on her commute into the city for work. As a self-described “naturally curious person”, Molly became fascinated by the lives of these women and the stories they’d have to tell. She eventually approached them on the street. These three women, whom Molly says were “more than willing to share everything”, became the dark subjects of her photographic exploration of heroin abuse and prostitution.
Over the course of three months, Molly spent each Thursday with them. She would arrive at their home, take them in her car to score drugs and sit patiently as they had unprotected sex with clients for drug money, all the while taking raw, unashamed photographs. Molly claims not to have felt uncomfortable or scared at any point. Any fear was overcome by her fascination with what was going on around her; “I felt invisible hidden behind my camera. When I was shooting, no one was taking any notice of me.”
Despite spending many hours of her week with these women, Molly found it difficult to build any form of relationship or friendship. The sad reality for these women is that heroin consumes their lives completely. These women have been heroin addicts since the 1980s, one having been injected with the drug by her own father at the age of eleven. They receive weekly dole payments, most of which is spent on heroin. They have mobile phones and bank accounts, but that is the extent of their connection with any world outside of drugs. They have made numerous failed attempts to get clean over the decades.
Sadly, Molly has not maintained any form of contact with these women; “I can’t relate to them on any level. Heroin is all they want to talk about and do. They were too monopolised on themselves and their injection of drugs”. What is saddest about these women, Molly explains, is that they “know that heroin has ruined their lives. They were well aware of how different their lives would be if they didn’t have this addiction”.
The response to Molly’s controversial photographs has been mixed. Many find the graphic nature to be extremely confronting, whilst many others show genuine interest and fascination in lives so different to our own. Molly hopes to raise awareness about these women and the thousands of others who suffer from drug addiction in her city. In a city Molly describes as “conservative”, it’s important to show different lifestyles and to gain insight into experiences so far from anything we will ever understand. On being asked about her own emotive response to the works, Molly is “empathetic to their situation. They have stood on the side of the road for twenty years, completely ignored”.
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