Portraits Before and After Drug Abuse

roman sakovich

London-based photographer Roman Sakovich produced this project ‘Half’ while he was studying photography at the Arts University College at Bournemouth. He photographed subjects in the studio using make-up “in order to explore the outsiders superficial judgement of the same person before and after drug abuse”. After which, he combined the before and after images into one in order to make the change more visible.

roman sakovich

roman sakovich

roman sakovich

roman sakovich

roman sakovich

This post was contributed by photographer Mitch Payne.

  • fart

    very art school

  • Cleatus

    So drug addicts look like zombies? Typical art school work…poor technique wrapped in an unfulfilled concept.

  • Tom

    Poorly done. Why not get real pictures of real people who then go on to become real drug addicts with real problems, merge them together so viewers can see the real deal? These are people made up to look like zombies, not drug addicts. Typical art school project – make believe is is paramount. Try some reality sometime. . .

  • Lynn

    They forgot about those using drugs that don’t look any different!

  • right

    so these look more like before and after a zombie attack

  • The One who Knocks!

    They all look like they’ve been on Crystal Meth… for about 5 years… pretty unrealistic and irrelevant, especially in a country where barely anybody takes it.

  • m.h

    drug addicts do look like zombies it sucks the life right out of you ….duh

  • Frank

    While I agree with the points in the comments above, get real guys. The project suggested above (While much better than the output this one had) would take years to come to fruition – guessing who will turn to drugs, what drugs they may use, how functioning of an addict they are if they form an addiction, you’d have to avoid people who try drugs but quit before the effects are visible, etc. While possible, let’s face it, most people like to do small projects that wrap up in a matter of months

  • Interesting concept, however merging before and after (perhaps years of abuse) photos of real addicts would have been more realistic.

  • Dave

    I never saw a drug addict that looked like that.

  • SD

    What normal looking person would sign up for this knowing they would become drug addicts and look like hell after abusing for years? No one, obviously. Even a casual user would not say, “Hey, take my picture now while I look healthy and I’ll come back after a while so you can juxtapose my crappy looking photo next to the healthy one.” That is why he had to use make up. You can’t make a project like this “more realistic” because no one would go into this knowing it would happen, which is not even the point anyway. It was not “poorly done”. It’s an artisticly presented Faces of Meth put together to study/explore how people are perceived by outsiders. Good effort, I say.

  • strong but good way to show that drugs are bad !

  • Don s

    Silly stuff. Waste of photons.

  • Sandra Steedle

    Wow, harsh, well it is a art school project and I give props to the artist’s concept. Whose to say they took the before picture prior to drug use, why not photograph drug users that go on to get clean… Obviously they ll look “better” . I d like to see the work of some of the neg nancies and see if the concept even came close to how interesting this is


    The definition of art is art

  • jon

    I think the photographer had a good idea. I think his pics came across like Rocky with hetpes. I don’t think he used the right kind of photography 50/50 is not ideal, maybe time lapse. It’s a powerful expression you want to get across but it didn’t come across as such. I welcome constructive criticism to my work, ss everyone who still enjoys still photography knows it’s not easy but it’s so rewarding even if it’s only a hobby , you know it’s a great hobby that you turn down dinner dates with friends with because you thought you were going to be done in a few hrs but it lasted all day. You don’t have to be professional to have the photograhy bug

  • mb

    But it isn’t ‘superficial judgement’. Drug users really are different people after they use drugs. Their conscience and morality are diminished…sometimes permanently.

  • Mike

    So, the moral of the story is… People who don’t use drugs slick their hair back, and people who abuse drugs let their hair down.

  • Mike

    The professor should have given him half credit.

  • Last year I was commissioned to shoot real life alcoholics and drug addicts – some in the town this photographer is based in – for a project intended to break down the stigma surrounding addiction and addiction treatment. To be blunt, this project just perpetuates the stereotype that if you’re an addict you’re low-income or you outwardly look a certain way. I’d like the photographer to respond to these points of course, but I get the feeling they have no real knowledge or understanding of addiction or addicts in general, which has the potential to be very damaging.

    If you’d like to compare and contrast my work, feel free to visit my website and view the section called ‘A Moment of Opportunity’.

  • Gee

    Faces of meth . Google it for some truly defining,real life stuff.
    This is probably where the concept was taken from.
    Total art school.

  • arnold

    Pictures of models wearing makeup don’t really show the true effects of certain drugs. They’ve added under-eye bags and scars, but the facial structure is basically the same – no signs of malnourishment or deep tissue damage for example.

  • T

    dang folks, why all the hate. You are some compassionless fools.

  • Joey

    Certainly better than pictures of his cat.

  • mirek krejci

    love the comments.. its true though.. it just doesnt look real and but suggests it is real… nice idea that failed.. i like the idea of getting photos of users and after they get clean… that would work and be practicle… this looks like a TV add… production by someone who never saw a drug outside broadcast news

  • Tara

    It depends on the type of drug, tbh, and how long you do it for. Those are pretty accurate for meth users. Some drugs, namely pills, someone could do for years and not look much different, whereas meth users don’t bother to keep themselves tidy, some end up homeless, they pick at their skin because it feels like bugs are crawling underneath them, and staying up for days while using causes hallucinations, so they could actually think bugs ARE LITERALLY crawling under their skin… and yes, ages them at a far greater pace. I’d say this is pretty accurate for meth and possibly crack users, although it would have been cool to see all different types of drug users represented!

  • Utter crap

    What a poorly executed project. Beyond highlighting a blatantly stereotypical difference in clothing, i.e. straight edge = well dressed vs. drug user = unkempt (which is just wholly untrue in a great deal of cases), they all look as if they’ve just gone a round with Mike Tyson. This is the kind of work I’d expect from a high school student, not a so called “professional”.

  • I had a friend that was hooked on meth she looked just like these photos and asked me all the time to remove the bugs out of her hair that were not really there . Ya’ll have never seen real life meth addicts have you ????? they are ugly with sores on their face from picking the bugs !!!!!

  • yawzy

    I’ve saw addicts that looked like these before. There are these kind of people out there…meth drugs do age you and change your total being. Call it what you want but the man has got a point that he has made and did damn good work on it. It shows the effect of drug and alcohol abuse and all that can come with it…including getting your ass whipped a time or two. A serious meth head that just got his/her ass beat by one or more peeps can look worse than this for a while. If you have never saw this with your own eyes then you may not have a clue. So all your negative comments are quit predictable and way off mark.

  • So are they trying to tell me I dress like a drug-addict?

  • Bud Wiser

    an awful lot of people calling it art school as if that is a bad thing or implying it is substandard in some way.
    there is nothing hiding the fact the artist was at art school. it states it in the article. so the only thing we can ascertain from the comments that repeat it, is that the critters can read. well done!
    as for the artwork, the pictures are well taken. good lighting of the subjects. interesting choice of background colour, it adds to the emotion of the work.
    i am not a fan of centralising images, although they do conform to the rule of thirds roughly.
    the greatest thing about these pictures is that they convey emotion. no matter whether you like the subject matter, the application or even the concept, it is clear the artist has evoked enough feeling in the critters (critiquers) here to share opinions and thoughts.
    the greatest insult to any artist is indifference. with this in mind they have been a huge success with everyone that has made a comment.
    congratulations Roman, not the work i would want to display, but powerful enough to make an impact. you will obviously go on to greater things if you choose to.

  • deb

    For everyone who thinks this doesnt look real obviously noone has walked the streets of scotland, my country has a terrible problems with heroine addition and I have seen plenty of drug addits looking like “zombies” just like in these pictures and unfortunatly in most cases worse, I agree a before and after shot of the person may have been more effective but its art thats the beauty of it theres no right or wrong, just opinion.

  • Ronda

    There is an online site matching up the mugshots of meth users over a short period of time and it’s unbelievable how these people can change in a matter of months. Yes, some look worse than zombies.

  • did any of you read the actual description?
    it says ‘outsider’s superficial judgement’. Therefore this is only ONE point of view, and at that a ‘superficial’ point of view.
    Hence what is being projected here doesn’t have to be completely true.

  • Jim

    Whats up with the brand new clothes? LOL

  • Valerio

    This is just stupid, nothing to do with art photography anyway…drug users are here represented like zombies. No light technique that should deserve any appreciation.

  • Gus

    Drugs are bad, mmkay?

  • Charles Harrington

    Not very convincing as far as drug abuse goes. Could be before and after the soccer game though.

  • Boomacboom

    F-arts comment can’t be beat. Wish I’d have said it. Quintessentially perfect description.

    The arteeeest’s next project is the upcoming book “The Complete Boneheads Guide – How to hook up with chicks using your Nikon and Photoshop Essentials. “

  • crap

    really bad photos.they dont look at all like addicts.nice idea but as badly executed as is possible.quite amazing how crap they are tbh.

    what it does say very well is how totally clueless middle class art schools are about the realities of the uk.

    on the upside i hear 28days later is getting a sequel,you’ll defo get a job with their makeup dep

  • Kate

    As a recovering heroin addict I actually agree with those that say these don’t look realistic. I can see how this looks like some of the meth heads I knew, but I actually knew quite a few functioning meth addicts that never looked like that. So it depends on the drug and the person. I never “looked” like an addict and that myth, that addicts look a certain way, makes it incredibly easy for people like me to fly under the radar. Basically I’m glad he tried, but I think he’s off mark. I wish he’d met and photographed some real addicts. He couldn’t have done the before/after thing then, but at least it’d have some reality to it.

  • DoberDaneGirl

    Apparently, many of you have never been around drug users/addicts. It doesn’t take long to transform from a decent looking human to a zombie-like creature when using hard core drugs such as meth and heroin. I work in the environment. I see the same people come in and out of jail looking worse with each visit. Now, granted, I think this project would have been far more credible and real had the photos been taken from real life. Perhaps merging mug shots. I have seen the prettiest of females and the most handsome males go from attractive to skeletal and gaunt covered in sores in a matter of months to a couple of years.

  • Huckleseed

    Watch “Faces of Meth” on youtube, then come back and revise your statements of incredulity on whether this is an accurate depiction of the damage from drug use.

  • Nessa

    Anyone who’s REALLY seen or been involved with someone on hard drugs, such as meth heroin etc, or sever alcoholics, would know that most look like the after. There are some who conceal it well, yes. But as someone who knows first hand what they look like, I’d give them a B. Due to the fact that alcoholics are more red in skin tone with slightly bloated face. Meth makes people pick their face and hair get disgusting. Pills cause the face to look sunken in, eyes cheeks etc. Similar to heroin. This I feel is less noticeable. True they may appear “ill” but more weightloss, hair loss, or skin discoloration.

  • somewhereinus

    This should go national. It says so much about the reality of drug abuse/addiction, that just cannot be imparted by mere words. Great work!

  • somewhereinus

    Actually, it should go global!

  • Harry

    I guess they only sniffed trough their left nostril..

  • Glenn

    So much ignorance in these comments. These pictures look exactly like before and after Faces of Meth pictures stuck together. Are you people so sheltered that you haven’t seen these?

    These photos are SPOT… ON ….

  • jbr


    Uh ya, that’s basically what they look like they they hit rock bottom.

    See it every single day.

  • Jon Moore

    Freaks me out. I need to smoke some crack to get these images out of my head.

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