A compelling and powerful series of photographs that document an acclaimed Scottish photographer’s devastating descent into drug addiction are to be given an exclusive first public showing this spring at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Graham MacIndoe: Coming Clean will exhibit 25 personal and graphic images taken throughout the six-year period in which heroin and crack cocaine seized hold of successful New York-based photographer Graham MacIndoe.
These hugely original photographs intimately record MacIndoe’s downward trajectory from professional photographer with a flourishing career to struggling opiate addict, a journey of anguish and isolation that was to culminate in an arrest for drug possession and a four-month stint in New York’s notorious Riker’s Island prison and five months in an American immigration detention centre before he got clean.
The images both powerfully confront the perilous destructiveness of addiction and explore the genre of self-portraiture in a way unrivalled in the photographic medium.
MacIndoe studied painting at Edinburgh College of Art and received a Masters degree in photography at the Royal College of Art in London, before moving to New York in 1992 where he later pursued a career as a professional photographer. His work began to appear in some of the world’s leading publications, including The New York Times and The Guardian.
MacIndoe’s success led him to take portraits of the most recognisable people in the world, from Hollywood actors and authors to international artists and pop stars. However, he began to use alcohol and drugs in part to mitigate the stress arising from this demanding lifestyle, and also upheaval in his personal life, but his heroin habit gradually overtook everything that once mattered.
He has now been clean for seven years, largely thanks to an innovative prison rehab program, what he describes as "a compassionate judge" and the support of his partner Susan Stellin, a reporter with whom he co-wrote Chancers: Addiction, Prison, Recovery, Love: One Couple's Memoir, published by Random House in June 2016.
The recovery has seen MacIndoe prosper again, as a working photographer and as adjunct professor of photography at Parsons The New School in New York City, while he and Stellin were awarded a 2014 Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship for a project about deportation.
Speaking of the exhibition, he said: "Although the images were taken during a difficult time, I am grateful to have made it through that period and hope this series shows that recovery is possible even from the depths of serious addiction. I never anticipated that these photographs would find a place in the national collection, so I’m especially excited for the opportunity to exhibit them in the city where I first discovered photography."
Graham MacIndoe: Coming Clean will be at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery from 8 April until 5 November 2017. Discover more at www.nationalgalleries.org.
Main image: Graham MACINDOE (b. 1963), Untitled from the series Coming Clean, negative: 2004-2010; printed 2015. Photograph, inkjet prints, 9 x 12 in Collection: Scottish National Portrait Gallery, purchased 2015 © Graham MacIndoe