Some of them shoot up on camera, others are ravaged and covered in sores. All of them are naked, in some twisted take on glamour modelling. Seeing these pictures should put anyone off injecting drugs for life. RC is unapologetic about his involvement, to what could seen to be a despicable level.
What did you want to achieve with these photos?
At the risk of sounding stuffy, I believe my purpose is to communicate. So my intent is some sort of thought-provoking correspondence between the image and the viewer. In this case, the images are about young women first seduced and then quite literally enslaved, degraded and abused by an insidious drug.
Who are the girls in the pictures?
Human beings. That is the horror, isn't it?
Were they really shooting up?
Yes. Three in the series are now dead. The girl in Heroin Chic Revisited died about a week after the image was made. From an overdose.
Did you pay the models?
They aren't models. They aren't actors. As for payment, without exception, their singular interest is their drug. Provide that (or the means) and they will do anything: suck, fuck, drink urine - anything. That is the horror. There is no limit. I never pay or provide drugs directly. But I certainly enable.
How did you find the girls?
I have a reputation. People mostly seek me out. But in a larger sense, any city has a place where they can be found.
Why do you think they wanted to be pictured like this?
I imagine most didn't care. Perhaps some wanted to be a warning to others. All of them, however, had a sense that the images would be their bleak legacy - that they would die and that the images would be all of their life and being that survived. In many cases, that was sadly true.
Do you know what's happened to the girls now? Do you keep in touch with any of them?
Some I am in touch with but many simply sink to oblivion. I like to think some survive. I know a very few who have, but I know that most don't.
How would you respond to those who find the pictures uncomfortable to look at?
I think being 'uncomfortable' is a desired response. I would worry about those who didn't feel uncomfortable. I would worry even more about those who find the images arousing.
But some people will find these images arousing. How does that make you feel?
I think I should rephrase that: I think that anyone who finds these images arousing should worry about themselves. Personally, I don't really care what people think or feel - only that they actually do think and feel - because that is my artistic mission.
How would you respond to those who say you're exploiting vulnerable people?
I would say, "What's your point?"
Where have you shown the pictures?
They have been exhibited widely in a geographic sense but, as an exhibition, they don't make money and so few galleries are interested. Art, after all, is a business - right?
How would you like people to feel when they look at this set of pictures?
I would simply like them to feel.
How do you feel when you're taking pictures of the girls?
Oh, boy... Look, I am not a nice person and I don't pretend to be. I am obsessive and compulsive (requisite for an artist - at least the way I define 'artist') and my obsession is sex. Dark, fetid, extreme sex. It takes a lot for me to feel anything as I am a bit jaded. Do I get aroused by young women (some beautiful) shooting heroin? I surely do. I push things as far as I can. More than once, I have photographed a woman shooting heroin cooked with urine.
I will do whatever I feel like at the moment. I am not a documentarian. I provoke. I manipulate. I use people. I tend to get immersed in what I do. I try to approach most things as an 'urban anthropologist' but very often I 'go native' and any distinction between myself and my subjects can become hopelessly blurred. The important thing to me is that I feel.
Have you ever been moved to take them under your wing?
In the sense that a spider may extend hospitality to a fly? I am a bit of a contradiction in that I am an empathetic, caring sexual predator. So the answer is a qualified yes.
You have said your prime motivation for taking pictures is your dick. Do you have sex with these girls?
Does it concern you that people might make the link between sex and heroin and be encouraged to try it?
People are responsible for their own actions. If someone looks at these images and decides to shoot heroin, that is a result of their own personally defective social programming. It doesn't concern me at all and I certainly feel no responsibility or guilt. But in reality, heroin, like most narcotics, totally kills the sex drive in the user.
But for the observer, it certainly makes the user susceptible, pliable and even willing to endure all sorts of sexual degradation and abuse. Kind of a very effective (albeit dangerous) 'date rape' drug. No, I certainly don't encourage rape or heroin.
RC Horsch's website:
Just in case you didn't know, heroin fucks your life up. If you or someone you know has a problem with heroin, contact Release, a specialist heroin service offering advice, support and information for drug users, their families and friends on all aspects of drug use including drug-related legal problems. Tel: 0845 450 0215; Release.org.uk
*And please email your thoughts on these photos to email@example.com