Wit en Bruin, 1992 – Shop
One evening I walked along the FEBO in the Amsterdam red light district or the neighborhood of prostitutes and porn shops. At that time, the FEBO was busy at night with drug users, drug-related prostitutes and drug dealers. My name was called as I walked by: “Paul, Paul, do you still recognize me?”. I looked and didn‘t recognise anyone. Until a girl separated from the group of people and walked in my direction. “It‘s me, Sascha, your ex-girlfriend‘s sister. Paul, can you help me with 25 guilders?”, she continued. “25 guilders? What are you going to do with it?” I asked. “I'm going to setup a speedball”, she said. “Setting up a speedball? What is that?” I asked. ”Well”, she replied, ”that‘s a combination of cocaine and heroin and you inject it into a vein and then you get a flash. That‘s better than cumming”, she says. ”I would like to give you that 25 guilders, but then I would like to make a portrait of you in my studio on the Herengracht, if you setup that speedball”.
We bought her cocaine and heroin, walked to my studio on the Herengracht and there she prepared a speedball. I set up my camera and light up in front of a black studio background. My idea was to photograph the expression on her face without the needle visible in her vein. She sat down on a stool, I focused, she pushed the needle into a vein in her arm, and I printed. The result was phenomenal. It seemed as if she was entering a completely different dimension of time. As if she was lifted up and was completely somewhere else, in a different reality.
The next morning I developed the film, made the print and thought, ”Shit, I've never seen this”. One photo is not a series, so I have to photograph more speedball whores. The speedball whores turned out to be active behind the central station. There their customers drove by in cars and picked them up for a cheap shag.
After living abroad for some time, including New York, I came back to Amsterdam after 10 years. I met one of the speedball whores, Monica. (in the photo with a cigarette). I asked Monica how it went. Monica had stopped using speedball for a while. She had met a Surinamese friend (pimp) and worked for him as a prostitute. After an argument with her pimp, she went back to downtown Amsterdam and started using speedball again. I ran into her again by chance and invited her home. I interviewed her for a story of De Nieuwe Revu. It was a sad thing. All the girls I photographed were dead.