Following his recent graduation from the University College of London, Souvid Datta’s first assignment was in Kabul, Afghanistan. In between his time photographing scenes of contemporary Afghan life, the 23-year-old photographer set out to work on a personal project, documenting heroin addiction in the country Afghanistan.
In Kabul, the Pul-e Sukhta bridge has become the meeting point for hundreds of drug dealers and addicts. Datta struggled, at first, to gain their trust, but, after numerous failed attempts with various fixers, Datta tried a new technique.
“I started going back alone, trying to speak to addicts above and around the bridge in Urdu,” he says. “I did this without my camera out.” It’s only after his 12th visit that he started bringing his camera out with him.
In a country ravaged by decades of war, more than one million of Afghans, rich and poor, are addicted to drugs, according to a United Nations report. “Narcotics are becoming a sad kind of equalizer in the sense that you get middle class government workers, mothers, students, and the very poor people from the streets all going down under this bridge to use drugs,” says Datta.
After meeting and documenting some of these drug users, Datta followed Afghan National Police officers and visited a treatment clinic in Kabul where people are offered therapy and given food, clothes and medication. Yet, he says, because of a lack of resources, there’s no follow-up in terms of employment opportunities and counseling. “As soon as people leave, they relapse. That’s no more obvious than in the center itself where you see people coming in for their fourth or fifth time.”
Souvid Datta is documentary photographer based in London.