Interview with Tony Fouhse.
LILA: What do you remember of the day you met Steph?
TONY: I remember that day very well. I had been shooting on the block for another project, USER, for an hour or so when Steph came up to me and asked what I was doing. I told her and she asked me if I would take her picture. I set it up, shot a few frames and knew right away that there was something about her. She was intense but open, transparent, able to get in touch with her feelings and brave enough to show them to me. We talked for a while once we were done and I just felt some kind of connection. I met and photographed her a number of times over the next month or so and finally blurted out the words “Is there something I can do to help you?”.
LILA: …she answered she wanted to get clean and your journey together began. Have you ever thought Steph was not going to live enough to complete Live Through This?
TONY: Yes. When Steph left the hospital (3 days after brain surgery, against medical advise) I was told that she had a 50% chance of dying in the first week. Too, about 4 months ago she relapsed (for a while) and called me up from her hospital bed (we live about 1000 miles apart). Because of her renewed drug use her Hepatitis B was acting up and her liver was failing. She straightened out and seems to be doing okay these days. But every day is a struggle and the future is unwritten.
This is an excerpt of Steph’s writing from Live Through This:
On my first day of school my mom took me and i cried when she first had to say good bye but she told me she would wait out in the hallway so i would feel better! when it was time for me to go out for break i didnt see my mom but by that time i was fitting in with my friends and playing so i didnt really care cause i was having so much fun!!:)
My first memorie of being in Ottawa would have to be walking down to King Edward and seeing how easy it was getting the drugs i needed and seeing how many people all had drug problems!! chris new where i could go to find the block so i could get my pills but he was scared to ask anyone. So i went and asked the first person i seen was noddening out and boom i found my fix. i looked at it as a safe place to live and do drugs without going to jail cause i know in halifax if they see you around a drug place you get searched and booked in jail but not here they just see if your alive.
i was sooo unrealibale I was a horrible friend and i only thought about myself!! as i did it i didnt feel bad at all but once it was done i felt like shit! but when ur a junkie you only think about yourself. Once I herd I was ganna start the program I thought to my self “Can I Do It?” but I had you and i didnt want to let you down and tell you no I wasnt ganna do it. so I new I had to do it and I was scared!! cause drugs was alls i new. But i new it had to be done. deep down i did want to get clean
LILA: Tony, who is Steph, beyond the word drug addict?
TONY: Steph is a bright, sparkly person. She likes to get excited but is also about the laziest person I have ever met. You know how you go through life and meet all these people but only 2 or 3 or 4 of them become real friends? Why is that? Probably has to do with things you can’t really verbalize, don’t even want to. You are just happy to have met someone who you feel real and comfortable with. That’s Steph.
LILA: I’ve never been to Canada. Ottawa, the capital, is ranked one of the highest quality of living city of the world. Funny enough, your pictures/stories of addicts paint Ottawa like the equivalent of Skid Row, in my imagination. How do you perceive your own city?
Interview by Liliana Isella.
Photos by Tony Fouhse
from Live Through This.