Photojournalism project shines new light on addiction

By Andrew Freeman  |  August 25, 2018 @1:48 PM

A photojournalism exhibit opening on Monroe Avenue next month is shining a new light on addiction and recovery.

Cassandra Rivera has been clean of heroine for six years now.

“Prenatal with my twin," Rivera said. "My whole family has addiction running through their veins.”

Jeff Williams has been clean of cocaine and alcohol for four years.

“It’s pretty incredible each day how much of a struggle it’s been, and each day how gratifying it is to be where I am now.” Williams said.

Both are subjects in Chasing Nirvana Clean, a photojournalism series on addiction and recovery.

“There’s different colors. Old, young, new in recovery, old in recovery," Rivera said. "And it’s truly amazing to have someone finally captivate it in the six years I’ve been in recovery.”

Simone Ochrym started the project after losing her own son to addiction in 2016.

“When you have a child struggling with addiction, it’s a fight to the last breath. But when you come through the other side, it’s a fight to help others," Ochrym said. "I don’t want any parent going through what my husband and I had to go through, or a family. And I want to give people hope.”

It premieres at the Flower City Art Center on Monroe Avenue next month.

“What I’m looking for is the how and why people enter recovery, and stay in recovery for the long-term.” Ochrym said.

Simone wants the project to not just educate about recovery, but also break the stigma surrounding addiction.

“These are very valuable people in our community, and we should embrace them," Ochrym said. "Even though they’re struggling with addiction, it’s time for us to start rebranding them and saying they have a chronic disease, and bring them into recovery.”

It's a hope the participants share.

“My hope for Simone and myself is more people come out because of this and want to share their story so we can break down the stigma and share that these are everyday people, these are community members, they are assets, like Simone was saying, to the community.” Williams said.

The project will be open to the public September 7 through October 20.