vintage, nostalgia and memories


October 7, 2013

18 Harrowing Photographs of Heroin Addicts in New York in the 1960s

In February 1965, LIFE magazine published an extraordinary photo essay on two New York City heroin addicts, John and Karen. Photographed by Bill Eppridge, the pictures — and the accompanying article, reported and written by LIFE associate editor James Mills — were part of a two-part series on narcotics in the United States. A sensitive, clear-eyed and harrowing chronicle of, as LIFE phrased it, "two lives lost to heroin," Eppridge's pictures shocked the magazine's readers and brought the sordid, grim reality of addiction into countless American living rooms.

To this day, Eppridge's photo essay remains among the most admired and, for some, among the most controversial that LIFE ever published. His pictures and Mills' reporting, meanwhile, formed the basis for the 1971 movie, Panic in Needle Park, which starred Al Pacino and Kitty Winn as addicts whose lives spin inexorably out of control.

Here, Eppridge's photographs give us a glimpse into life of two young people who have become, as they themselves put it, "animals in a world no one knows."

Karen using hypodermic needle on an eyedropper which addict call a "spike" to shoot heroin into vein in her arm.

Karen trying to save the life of a fellow addict who has overdosed.

A plainclothes policeman (L) stops a couple known to be drug users for a search. Karen (2R) begins loud crying which tends to make cops uneasy.

Karen with her arms around boyfriend Johnny and his brother, Bro, who is also an addict, as they lie hopelessly on a hotel bed.

Karen trying to save the life of a fellow addict who has overdosed.

Karen keeping a furtive eye out for detectives, hands a pusher $5 for a bag of heroin.


Karen, a heroin addict, trying to save the life of a fellow addict who has overdosed.

At lampost on Broadway and West 71st Street, Karen (2L), a heroin addict and prostitute, does some drug peddling.

Karen with nylon stocking around her arm to make vein pop out as she uses hypodermic needle on an eyedropper which addicts call a "spike" to shoot up with heroin.

Karen trying to save the life of a fellow addict who has overdosed.

Karen trying to save the life of a fellow addict who has overdosed.

Karen exhausted by her efforts to save the life of a fellow addict who had overdosed.

John in jail for disorderly conduct, suffering withdrawal pains in his cell.


Heroin addicts shooting up in hotel room. John (fore) taking a shot within minutes of his release from jail.

John, a heroin addict, visting his girlfriend Karen, also a heroin user, in the hospital. John is high on heroin.

Karen trying to save the life of a fellow addict who has overdosed.

(Images: Bill Eppridge—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

1 comment:

  1. I remember this - you are right, it was shocking but important and Life is to be commended for
    doing it..a brave type of journalism at the time.

    ReplyDelete


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