Meth Dealers: They’re Just Like Us!
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Meth Dealers: They’re Just Like Us!


meth dealers.jpgThis post was originally published on May 2, 2014.

I’m really not sure how I feel about Kristy Hoffman’s interview in Vice with photographer Matt Desouza about his time spent with a crystal meth dealer in the East Hastings section of Vancouver, BC. I mean, I get it—a couple of days in the life of a hip-hop hipster looking, multilingual drug dealer has an artistic rawness about it that’s compelling. I just don’t know what I am supposed to have taken from this piece—that street-dwelling drug addicts are just like us?

A Shady Character

Right off the bat, there are a few things that make me question the authenticity of our protagonist, Diablo, a French Canadian man-child who—after only four months of residency—claims to “run” a McDonald’s on the outskirts of one of Vancouver’s more down-and-out neighbourhoods (spelled with a “u” out of respect). While I am sure he enjoys the powerful highs of crank, Diablo strikes me as a guy who is more addicted to the highs of power. He spots Desouza (and his camera) cold maxin’ at “his” Mickey D’s (incidentally, has anyone forwarded this article to corporate?), strolls right up to him and offers him drugs. When Desouza declines, Diablo then agrees to let him roll with him for the day and take photos. Forgive me, but this sounds more like a parody of Where the Day Takes You than an outsider’s infiltration of Vancouver’s tweeker underworld.

Nevertheless, in the name of art and journalism, Desouza takes Diablo’s lead and visually documents the experience, complete with shots of Diablo in his Brooklyn-meets-bone-thug steaze, Sharpie-tagging a pristine concrete wall with his own name, and a faceless gangly torso of a male snorting white powder off a plastic McDonald’s tabletop in broad daylight (seriously, has anyone called corporate?). I think these images are supposed to move me but the lack of credibility of Diablo and his cronies make these photos seem staged and self-aggrandized. There is one photo of a young girl taking a “cigarette” in lieu of the crank she came looking for, which—regardless of what Desouza thinks—most likely is the crank she came looking for; that had a hint of tragedy I thought seemed authentic. But overall, Diablo seems to enjoy being showcased as a moderately-sized fish in a tiny, rundown, gritty pond—showing Desouza how he keeps it real with his mobile makeshift bed of cardboard that he sets up under the stairwell in something he calls “blood alley,” cause you know, he’s a total bad ass.

Still Not Impressed

Desouza caps off the interview with a statement about how ultimately, Diablo and his friends are “messed up” but they are good people, as if this is suppose to be enlightening; the problem is there is nothing in the interview that would have us thinking otherwise. Desouza’s subjects don’t come off as a motley crew of unpredictable characters who are just trying to survive the harsh streets of Vancouver; they just seem like immature druggie posers who would rather hop a cross-country bus to trade cigarettes for used clothing than get a real job. Sure, their hands might be cracked and dirty but that doesn’t do much to convince me that they aren’t just a bunch of young adults in their prime who refuse to grow up.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.