In 2013, we spoke to photographer Dan Giannopolous about taking photos of discarded drug baggies. He'd just started snapping the ziplock bags he found lying around near his house and mapping their coordinates to see if he could find any recognizable patterns. Three years later: nope, no recognizable patterns. But lots and lots of photos of empty baggies.
"In terms of patterns, nothing really showed up," he says over the phone. "It just showed that there are a lot of litter bugs. A lot of drug users who like to litter."
I suppose that makes sense; these bags are available online, meaning dealers from all over buy them in bulk, so you're probably not going to see any designs local to one specific area.
Plus, weed dealers—and the vast majority of the baggies Giannopolous photographed contained weed ("I've got a lot of friends who had the same bags, and they're all fucking potheads")—aren't that bothered about branding. Selling weed isn't like selling heroin—where dealers stamp the wraps with their own personal brand—or pills, which are often stamped with a recognizable design. Unless you're the type to import ludicrously expensive, name-brand weed from America, it's likely you don't care too much about what design is on the packaging it comes in.
Giannopolous did notice some changes over the years, though. "Toward the beginning, I saw a lot of Bruce Lee [bags] and ones with bulldogs on them," he says. "They still turned up occasionally [further into the project], but there were new ones, too—the biohazard one, different types of smiley faces."
Often finding the bags in the typical places people go to get stoned—parks, bus stops, those quiet paths that are full of smashed glass and loose children's shoes, despite the fact you never see anybody walk down them—Giannopolous realized that there wasn't much use in trying to force any kind of data out of them, so he just decided to focus on the aesthetics. "To me, they're just really cool little bits of street art, which I thought would look cool if they were photographed and blown up," he says.
So he's done just that, ready to exhibit the project—which he's called WASTE(D)—at the Ben Oakley Gallery in London this June. Weirdly, the number of baggies he'll have on display ended up "completely unintentionally" being a very suitable amount.
"I reached a point with the digital collage I was making where I needed to get it printed. I stopped and thought, That's it—I'm not going to do it anymore," he says. "And it just happened to be on four hundred twenty baggies."
WASTE(D)opens at the Ben Oakley Gallery, Greenwich on June 10.
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See more images from "WASTE(D)" below.