Monday, 29 June 2015

Meth Mouth

Meth Mouth is a term used to describe the discoloration, rotting and broken teeth in the mouth of a person who has an addiction to methamphetamine. This extreme tooth decay is a condition that occurs in many people and it is believed that the drug causes it. Methamphetamine causes the saliva glands to stop producing saliva so a person will experience an extremely dry mouth. This allows the acid in the mouth and in food and drink that is consumed to eat away at the protective enamel on the teeth. Users also may obsessively grind their teeth and may not brush their teeth for many days while on a binge.

Methamphetamine is produced from a range of highly toxic chemicals, which can cause many problems for an addict. Lithium, muratic and sulfuric acid are key ingredients in methamphetamine and these are all highly corrosive. When a person smokes methamphetamine in a pipe, these chemicals are heated, vaporized and inhaled which can cause sores on the inside of the mouth. The corrosive chemicals also coat the teeth causing significant decay to the enamel. If the drug is snorted, the chemicals are drawn down the nasal passage to the back of the throat and coating the teeth with the substance.

Heroin is known to cause serious oral health problems and in chronic long term users, bad teeth, bad gums and missing teeth are often apparent. In surveys of injecting heroin drug users, up to 70% described problems such as teeth snapping offteeth falling apart, gum disease and trauma. These problems are often a result of a lack of dental hygiene, access to health care or not caring about oral health due to drug addiction.
Individuals who are addicted to heroine or other opiates often experience severe decay in their teeth. This is because the drug causes them to crave sweet foods and drinks but their lifestyle often ignores the importance of mouth care. Additionally, many addicts consume sugary drinks and foods because they are inexpensive and readily available. Taken from

I recall photographing Cherie Blair in 2009 and observing her absolutely perfect teeth.

See also portrait of Fungi & Lynch, 2013.

Detail from Image_3843, Will & Lakella © Richard Ansett 2015

Detail from Image_4040, Kayleigh © Richard Ansett 2015

Cherie Blair © Richard Ansett 2009

Detail from Cherie Blair © Richard Ansett 2009

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Working with Monsters

I am currently working with a pool of amazing Spanish and South American assistants, all girls, all recent graduates or studying MA's. I can't underestimate the value of the huge amount of time we spend in the car together to discuss photography. Themes usually revolve around the fundamentals of what we are doing and why we are doing it but equally important is silence, a lot of silence; I have found that girls are more comfortable with this than boys. My perception is that boys, particularly heterosexual boys, demand more attention than girls. (although there are some notable and well known exceptions).

I worked with one boy who was so shy, I was concerned he might be autistic, this combined with his terrible grasp of English, made him amazingly useful with the most sensitive subjects. He had very little skills or technical knowledge but if there was a self harmer or vulnerable teenager, I would always use him and I created many important images with him. One of the greatest talents an assistant can have is to render themselves virtually invisible so that the subject forgets them or equally they can be essential in creating an atmosphere that brings out an interesting response in the subject.

There can be a lack of anything tangible to do on my shoots, as I can seem incredibly self-reliant and I imagine it must feel quite unsatisfying to work with me if you do not accept the essential role that your personality plays in how I build a relationship with a subject and the space. The assistant is a vital component just by being themselves.

The hardest thing for these sensitive and brilliant people is to cope with the shifts in mood and energy as I struggle to respond to new environments, I project a lot of frustration that must be quite wounding (see images of Maria de la O Garrido) but this is discussed in early interviews with them and I continually remind them of this possibility. I often can snap at an assistant during a shoot purely to elicit a spontaneous response in a subject, who might have started to become comfortable in my presence. The priority is entirely the capture of a moment and nothing must get in the way.

Maria is a student at Central St Martin's Fine Art MA, she played alone in her room as a child and now she works best alone in her studio playing with her new toys, her mother's name is Solitude.

Image_3919 © Richard Ansett 2015
Image_3918 © Richard Ansett 2015
Image_3921 © Richard Ansett 2015

Friday, 19 June 2015

The Miniature Train of Pedras Del Rei

My very first memory of taking a photograph was as an eight year old boy on holiday with my family in Portugal in 1974. There was a miniature railway that transported the tourists from the resort to the beach, which still exists today. Follow the link for a short film so you can experience it to.

I positioned myself with the family camera up against my face, standing by the railway tracks, waiting, my excitement growing as the train slowly approached. I took the photograph.

Months later when we had finally used up the roll of film, the prints came back from the chemist and I could not find the image but there was a strange picture of some empty tracks. I had pressed the button too early.

The train is millimetres out of frame on the left hand side.

This was the first of many clear memories of failure with a camera and only in hindsight have I come to understand that the root of my devastation was and still is a great passion for the experience of capturing a moment. Through my early teens I experimented more with ways to minimise the probabilities of missing events by setting up controlled scenes and waiting for events to occur within them. I started with a fixed tripod and shutter release set up by bird feeders, capturing very close up images of garden birds and this eventually led to spending hours in hides in the countryside. It is inescapable that this need to minimise loss had carried forward into years of creating deliberate scenes for the exploration of humans.

I feel that if there is one thing I share with anyone who is committed to photography as a medium is this sense of terrible loss when we feel we have failed and the equal and opposite 'petit mort' from the success of capturing a vital moment and holding it.
The Miniature Train of Pedras del Rei © Richard Ansett 1974

Thursday, 18 June 2015

New Mother Dog and Horse

Image_6085, New Mother Dog and Horse © Richard Ansett 2015

Detail from Image_6085, New Mother Dog and Horse © Richard Ansett 2015