Claire Martin is from Australia and was a social worker before becoming a photographer. She documents marginialised communities living in desperate conditions in otherwise prosperous countries. These photos were took in the Downtown East Side in Vancouver of people who have made the area, which is riddeled with, crime, drug addiction, prostitution and where 30% of the population have AIDS, their home. Mental illness, addiction and poor coping strategies are the common factors that brought these people to their respective communities.
‘I was drawn to document these communities because the same issues have played a role in my own life. I grew up enjoying christmas lunches with relatives who were “let out” for the day from their various institutions, shuffling around in pyjamas, dull and subdued by their anti-psychotic medications or, in the case of those who were only partially mad, talking to imaginary parrots on their shoulders. One grandmother could not be contacted on Christmas because she lived out of her car with her cats, roaming remote Australia, never staying in one place long enough for anyone to get too close. I never felt that these problems were relevant to me as a child, as my immediate family was sane and happy, that is, until my father died of cancer and my mother fell into depression and alcoholism. Fortunately for me my formative years were a little eccentric but mostly stable and happy, but it begs the question, what if these family breakdowns had happened earlier in my life? Who would I be now? Would I have developed effective coping strategies or would I have learnt by example, turned to drugs and spiralled into psychosis?’ – Claire Martin
The following photos are a selection from her set ‘Downtown East Side’, which I think is some of the best social documentary photography ever.
Aparantly there is a trend going round the area of carrying around Chinese paper parasols and shooting up under them. Also, you can buy crack pipes in local shops, and they get away with it by selling them as a novelty romantic trinket: