Addiction & Poverty

by Claire Martin

Vancouver’s Downtown East Side is a place notorious for it’s residents who live below the poverty line in a city twice voted “the worlds most livable” by the Economist Magazine.

Statistics for the suburb include an AIDS rate estimated at 30% and the leading cause of death as overdose. Addiction is the core problem causing women to sell sex in order to meet subsistence needs such as food and shelter. Living conditions are sub-standard with the norm consisting of small single room accommodations that are ridden with bed bugs and multi resistant Staphylococcus.

The media regularly makes rounds on the Downtown East side but it only serves to stigmatize the people. It is easy to forget that this is a real suburb home to real people who are suffering devastating loss of health and quality of life due to addiction.

Claire Martin

Claire Martin began her career by pursuing a degree in Social Work, however, she changed her focus to Photography when she realized that change can also be effected through this medium.

Her work in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, Canada’s poorest neighbourhood, has brought to light terrible injustices and the government’s failure to address the social problems that plague this community. This series has been recognized by the IPA, winning Claire a nomination for Deeper Perspective Photographer of the Year. A single image from the series also won her the Amateur Portraiture Category of the Sony World Photography Awards.

Claire has recently relocated to Perth, Western Australia where she has begun a career as a freelance photographer.

More pictures and further details can be found at

What’s in the bag?
The whole series of images for the Addiction and Poverty feature were shot with a hassleblad 501CM using natural light. I have prime 80mm and 50mm lenses and that is all. I used Ilford delta series from 100 to 3200 film. I scanned negatives with Epson Flatbed photo scanner.

All images copyright © Claire Martin