Good Bad People • Jared Ragland
The rise in use of methamphetamine across the American South over the last decade has led to increased cultural anxiety about the drug and those who use it, while the general perception of the meth-head is perpetuated by popular television programs and pervasive anti-meth campaigns. These limited representations typically paint one- dimensional, demonized characters whose chronic drug use is epitomized by obsessiveness, paranoia, and monstrous physical side effects. But while there are certainly deleterious consequences to meth use and stereotypes often ring too true, existing cultural narratives too often fall short of individually considered realities.
“Good Bad People” tells the complex, often contradictory stories of more than 30 meth users from Sand Mountain, a sandstone plateau in Ragland’s home state of Alabama, made infamous for its extreme poverty, poultry processing plants, Pentecostal snake-handlers, and meth production. Photographed over two years’ time in collaboration with sociologist Heith Copes, Ph.D., the project simultaneously reinforces and undermines assumptions of what it means to be a methamphetamine user. By presenting an intimate look into the complicated lives of those who struggle amidst drug use, the pictures reveal an often derided and misunderstood population and engage the pivotal political role and cultural identity of the marginalized rural South.
Jared Ragland is a fine art and documentary photographer and former White House photo editor. He is the photo editor of National Geographic Books’ The President’s Photographer: Fifty Years Inside the Oval Office and has worked on assignment in the Balkans, former Soviet Bloc, East Africa and Haiti. His photographs have been exhibited internationally and featured by Forbes, TIME, and The New York Times. Jared is an alumnus of LaGrange College and a 2003 graduate of Tulane University with an MFA in Photography. He resides in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.