In the New York City drug trade, as in many enterprises, marketing and branding is key. Translucent glassine packets carry doses of heroin. They are stamped with words, images, and colors rife with connotation. Users and dealers call them stamps and they act as brands representing the source and quality of the high. The economy of heroin is sophisticated and mercenary. Stamped, filled, sold, ripped, emptied, used, discarded, these glassine packets tell the story of addiction. It is a story that has many players: supplier, artist, drug runner, user, and even collector.
We plan to put on a photography exhibit that presents the complex world these stamps represent. The exhibit: Edge Markets: Heroin Use, Stamp Aesthetics, and HIV, is a visual exploration of addiction through the heroin stamps that are bought and sold in front of our doors. A week of mixers, screenings and educational events will contextualize the exhibition, raise funds and awareness for the organizations that work in this space, and help to illuminate the lesser-known stories of around these stamps that deeply impact our communities.
Blown up larger than life, these beautiful, fascinating and unsettling images of the stamps hint at a complex chain from supplier to dealer, the dynamics of drug markets and the story of the marketing of addiction on the streets of NYC. Their disturbing beauty compels the viewer to consider addiction and some of its preventable consequences (e.g. HIV and HCV infections, mass incarceration). The graphic images on the stamps mirror the political and social climate of the moment, creating a fascinating narrative.
The funds we raise here will cover production costs of the pieces for the exhibit, the events around the exhibit and the collateral materials for education and awareness that will be distributed. The poster-size drum scans of the stamps are graphically compelling and tell powerful stories from the neighborhoods all around us. Our goal is to bring considerations of art, morality, policy and public health to the public forum at an important moment in policy making.
Why this is important:
- HIV/AIDS prevalence spirals out to 19% among users compared to 0.4% of the general population.
- There is an estimated 1,365,000 injection drug users in the US.
- From the beginning of the AIDS epidemic there have been a total of 1,051,875 cases of AIDS reported in the US, 25% were transmitted through injection drug use.
- It is within Federal, state, and local agencies' power to reduce the risk of Hepatitis C and HIV infection through injection-drug use. In the United States, needle-sharing directly accounts for more than 25 percent of AIDS cases. There is a proven solution here: needle-exchange programs, which provide drug injectors with clean needles, usually in return for their used ones. Needle exchange is the cornerstone of an approach known as harm reduction. By providing access to sterile needle syringes and drug-preparation equipment we can make drug use less deadly.
Needle exchange is AIDS and Hepatitis C prevention that works.
- (58 days)