This image captures the discourse around drug use and HIV and therefore induces/enables a meta-analysis of the logics, ethics, and rhetorics being deployed to frame these issues.
This image is a photograph/fits within the genre of photography. I would have a hard time specifying it any further.
The image is uncomfortable. It immediately strikes me as a danger. Even though, upon further inspection, I can see the orange plastic covers on the tips of the needles, indicating a barrier and a level of safety, I have been socialized to think of needles, not only as a source of discomfort (receiving a shot), but also as a potentially life-threatening danger.
Sterile Ethics ->Toxic Politics
This image is ethnographic in that it represents a contemporary controversy over how to understand and address the transmission of HIV through the use of intravenous drugs. But, at the same time, as an unsuspecting viewer, all we see is a box of sterile needles. That is, without context, the viewer could come to wildly different conclusions about the argument behind this picture. This is not intended as a critique of the image but rather an opportunity. In the design statement, I would suggest playing up this ambiguity of the image's meaning and relating that back to the ambiguity of the concept of "public welfare." That is, I think the ambivalence of the needle as a technology that both saves and endangers lives could be made analogous to the potential for certain deployments of the concept of "public welfare" to be rendered toxic. How does a box of sterile needles become morally fraught? How does the premeditated endangerment of the lives of people struggling with addiction become a moral good? How are these developments related?
In my opionion, this image communicates the nuance required to effectively understand and address toxicity as a social issue. It also unveils the discursive risks embedded in the "common sense," where overly simplified solutions contribute to, rather than attenuate or resolve the complexity of medical epidemics. It's unsettling to imagine the provision of a box of sharp objects, intended to inject toxic substances into bodies of people struggling with addiction, as a safety measure. And yet, careful studies have shown that these actions can save lives.
This image demonstrates how the logics and ethics of the police state enable such vital public infrastructures as Santa Ana's needle exchange program to be eradicated under the false pretenses of protecting "public welfare." It also shows a high level of ignorance or disregard, among Santa Ana's city officials, for the well-established findings and recommendations made by medical anthropologists and other social scientists that study HIV transmission. Together these observations demonstrate how cultural and structural factors, like the criminalization and moralization of certain self-destructive behaviours, amplify the effective toxicity of highly addictive drugs and infectious diseases like HIV.