Simon Letellier Simon Letellier

I have always loved telling stories. It has only been for a few years now, with words, but for a long time with pictures. But, I’ve always with the same goal—to meet all different kinds of people and to share as much as I can. After having graduated from a photography and journalism school, in 2001, I created a magazine called BLACKPOOL. I began this project to communicate the stories of people whose lifestyles interested me: photography, graphic design, literature, theater, dance, fashion, illustration. At the same time, I created Blacklight Agency, a corporate communication agency that helped companies improve their communication and to create new ideas and ways of sharing their ideas. After nine years, my work with BLACKPOOL magazine and Blacklight Agency came to an end, and I decided to use my skills to help people in a different way. I then joined the International Medical Help (AMI), a french non-profit organization, and worked as a Communications Officer, in Kabul, Afghanistan. During my one year working in Afghanistan, I spent most of my time creating visual tools to improve health education for Afghan people. I also documented the lives of Afhgans with photographs. When my time in Kabul was finished, I returned to France, and I now share my time between the Swiss Cultural Center of Paris, where I work as Chief Editor of the contemporary art review Le Phare, and my freelance photography work.

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Abandoned Children in Bulgaria
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
29 Sep 2014

Bulgaria is one of the countries in the world most affected by the abandonment of children. Every year, 2,000 babies are placed in state institutions, while over 7,000 infants and teenagers live without parents. This practice of abandoning children is a by-product of the family policy in the countries that were part of the Soviet Union. In these countries, the state or "homeland" acted as the surrogate mother for abandoned children and took care of families. As a result, thousands of children in Bulgaria have grown up without proper care and affection. The shocking images of the Rumanian orphanages in the eighties opened the eyes of the authorities and public opinion about these child prisons. In 2009, a BBC report showing wild children in Bulgaria fighting for food and living in terrible conditions greatly upset the population. Over the last few years, NGOs, the European Union, and Unicef have mobilized in an effort to close these orphanages. The state of Bulgaria also decided on a national plan to close the institutions. The authorities made a commitment to provide alternative housing and care for these children, which involves developing a network of host families, facilitating adoption processes, helping the biological families financially to encourage them to keep their children, and creating small institutions to help handicapped children (42 % of the abandoned children suffer from a disability). But what really needs addressing is the causes behind the high level of abandonment. Poverty, lack of access to healthcare (among the Roma minority in particular), poor sexual education, and the high price and inaccessibility of contraceptives are all issues that contribute to the problem. This is a colossal challenge for the poorest country in the European Union, compounded by corruption. Another angle to the story: ‘Mothers in Chains’ After being abandoned, the child has to grow up without a mother. Placed in an institution, they are surrounded by women who will give them care and affection. Nurses, nannies, volunteers and, in the best cases, a family assistant if there is placement in host family or foster mother if they are lucky enough to be adopted. To make up for the absence of the biological mother, surrogate mothers' chain is going to be set up. Who are these women who devote themselves to taking care of these abandoned children? How do they work? What are the aftereffects on the children after having so many different maternal relationships?

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Drug Addict
Paris
By Simon Letellier
04 Feb 2013

The number of drug addicts in France is difficult to be exactly defined. The first problem is to define the addiction, and for which product (cocaïne, weed, crack, extasy,...). But the number vwould be between 150 000 and 300 000. In Paris, a city project named « shoot rooms » should open in October where drug addict helping associations will be able to better help and assist about 200 drug addicts. But before this opening, in December 2012, I went to meet drug addicts to better understand their today life. Lot of them refuse to answer questions and being on pictures. Only one has accepted to be followed during the day to better understand his life. I met him at CAARUD office, a drug addict helping association in La Chapelle area. The north of Paris, between La Chapelle subway and La Chapelle gate, is one of the most important place for drugs use in Paris. Under highways, drug users smoke cocaïne and crack every day, searching for money to pay their drug use. Philippe is one of them. He is 58 years old and drug addict for more than 20 years.
He would like to quite, but is unable to do it. So everyday is the same thing : smoking cocaïne and searching for money to pay for it. Over the months we spend together I bertter understood what being a drug addict means. At the begining of each month, he receives money from his Togolese family. With it, he pays a room in a hotel where he stays during one week. Everyday is the same. He waking up. No breakfast. Going to La Boutique, a drug addict helping association. Meeting some other drug addicts. Speaking with social assistant. Taking some new crack pipes given by the association in order to avoid disease contamination. Then going to meet the dealer, buying cocaïne and going back to the hotel to smoke. Sleeping a little bit, eating a burger, and going back to smoke.
But after one week Philippe doesn't have enough money to pay the hotel so he has to leave the room. At this time he decides to keep the few money he has to buy cocaïne, and everyday he goes to Sleep-in, a drug addict helping association which offers a bed to sleep. Even if he doesn't like this place because of the violence between drug addicts, he has no choice he has to sleep there. And for smoking his cocaine he has to go under highways, or in some squats. After few days he doesn't even has enough money to buy cocaïne. So he sells his mobile to the dealer and tries to get another one.
Philippe is tired about his life. He would like to go in rehab. He already did one but he failed at the end and came back in Paris where his demon took him back.
This reportage wasn't easy to do because following a drug addict is quite complicated. Rendez-vous were complicated and I had to search after him during few hours. But Philippe, like lot of drug addicts in Paris, stays in La Chapelle Area, so I always have found him. But a day I didn't. So went back the day after and the day after again. Finally He called me to tell me that he was arrested and he was not in jail. He doesn't like it but he knows that it's also a a kind a rehab, with the hope to not failing when he will be released.

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Her and Me: Drag Queen Transformation
Lille, France
By Simon Letellier
10 Sep 2013

Drag Queen Transformation is both an art and a form of self-expression that is little appreciated and understood by outsiders. Beginning in July 2013, French photographer Simon Letellier began travelling around France and documenting the “transformation” process of men who dress up as women. The result is this collection of “before and after” photos illustrating the stunning physical transformation these men achieve, be it for an evening, a drag show, or a simple photo.

For each of these men, transforming into a female character is about more than just changing physical appearance, it is a form of self-expression. It is also a positive outlet for men whose personal stories are often laced with painful memories of social repression and a longing to simply be one’s self.

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ME&ME
Europe
By Simon Letellier
12 Jul 2013

ME & ME is a series of portraits of drag shows. Started in July 2013, this project still in progress, has led me to Mons, Liège, Lille and Paris. The goal was to meet transformists to understand their process of "transformation." They are amateurs, professionals, young or old, whether for work or just a passion, these men helped me understand photographically and in interviews the pleasure they have becoming a woman for an evening, a show or a simple shot. The interviews helped to expose the often painful stories with happy issues, but also sarcasm, ridicule, insults and disturbed others look. They also highlighted the insurance, assumption and the desire to be what they are. This temporary transformation goes beyond simple disguise. This goes much further. They do not take on a role, they just become another person they want to live for a while.

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Zabbaleen: A life in Cairo's garbages
Zabbaleen
By Simon Letellier
11 Jul 2013

The Zabbaleen are teenagers and adults who have served as Cairo's informal garbage collectors for approximately the past 70 to 80 years. Zabbaleen means "Garbage people" in Egyptian Arabic. The Zabbaleen are also known as Zarraba, which means "pig-pen operators."

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A Day in the Emergency Room in Aleppo...
Aleppo
By Simon Letellier
18 Jun 2013

During the armed conflict in Syria, hospitals and their staff are frequently targeted by Bashar Al Assad's regime. The Syrian regime considers aiding rebels in any way an act of terrorism. The revolution has changed the stability throughout the country and now even large hospitals are in need of medical supplies, equipment, and staff.

Doctors and their staff at this makeshift hospital in Aleppo are overwhelmed by the amount of civilians and Free Syrian soldiers wounded by regime airstrikes, snipers, and various types of bombardments. The photographs were taken in the emergency room of a field hospital in Aleppo. Doctors were on standby in the emergency room cleaning medical tools and attending to patients when the bombs began to fall. Near the hospital's location, an airstrike commenced and the wounded begin pouring in.

The first of the injured to make it to the hospital doors was a young girl. She was carried in by an FSA soldier who found her lying next to her deceased mother in the street after the bombs hit. The young girl was covered in blood and peppered with shrapnel, screaming for her mother while her mother's corpse was carried into the hospital.

The soldier explained that the little girl and her mother were walking together when the bomb exploded nearby, immediately killing the mother. Doctors worked frantically to extract shrapnel from the little girl’s body. After giving her drugs to calm her down, they proceeded to the X-Ray room. The young girl's father arrived from work and discovered his injured daughter laying on the surgical table, then collapsed and began to cry. Due to the quick response of the medical staff, the little girl survived but two young Free Syrian Army soldiers who arrived shortly after her died.

Another casualty was a young man who was transported to the hospital by a soldier from the Free Syrian Army. The man was shot twice by a sniper. The first bullet went through his chest and the second struck him in his back and was still in his body. The doctor hurried to stop hemorrhaging and didn't hesitate to put his finger into the hole to stop the bleeding. To calm the patient down, they gave him drugs and taped his eyes shut to avoid hallucinations. After an X-Ray, he was sent to the operation room. Doctors did not succeed in removing the bullet from his back but he later survived.

This is a daily occurrence for the doctors and staff of this hospital in Aleppo and many others throughout the country that are doing their best with what they have to stop the bleeding of Syria's conflict.

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Abandoned Children 35
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
04 Jul 2014

Feeding bottles for babies in the Saint Ivan Rilski Sofia Institution that houses around a dozen babies.

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Abandoned Children 33
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
04 Jul 2014

A little boy stands in the playground of Saint Ivan Rilski Sofia Institution.

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Abandoned Children 32
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
04 Jul 2014

A girl at the Saint Ivan Rilski Sofia Institution's playground. Like this little girl, many children, disabled or not, wait for adoption.

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Abandoned Children 25
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova welcomes abandoned children in her home for one year before they get adopted. On her computer, she shows an older child who was adopted last year.

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Abandoned Children 26
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

Children playing in the garden of Shumen Institution. Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 24
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little girl playing in the garden of Shumen Institution, the oldest institution in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 23
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little boy playing in the Shumen Institution garden. Shumen institution is the oldest in Bulgaria. It was built in 1935. In the past there were hundreds of children lived here. Because of de-institutionalization, they're now less than a dozen, all with disabilities. During the day, children with light disabilities come to spend the day and then go back to their home at night.

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Abandoned Children 22
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova playing with little Anna. Dani Dukova's apartment smells like chocolate cake. When she opens the door, a small brunette with two braids enters. It is Anna, age four. Dani has been in Dukova's care for one year. "It is the fifth child I have at home since I decided to become a host family," explains Dukova. "When the girl first arrived from the institution, she used to bang her head against the walls. It was hard to watch. Now, she's much better. " Dukova knows that one day, Anna will leave when foster parents in Bulgaria or in the United States decide to take her on. "I cry when they leave, but I am very proud of how they have changed in my care," she adds.

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Abandoned Children 21
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A doctor walking in the courtyard of Shumen's oldest institution. Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 20
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova welcomes abandoned children in her home for one year before they get adopted.

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Abandoned Children 19
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova playing with little Anna. Dani Dukova's apartment smells like chocolate cake. When she opens the door, a small brunette with two braids enters. It is Anna, age four. Dani has been in Dukova's care for one year. "It is the fifth child I have at home since I decided to become a host family," explains Dukova. "When the girl first arrived from the institution, she used to bang her head against the walls. It was hard to watch. Now, she's much better. " Dukova knows that one day, Anna will leave when foster parents in Bulgaria or in the United States decide to take her on. "I cry when they leave, but I am very proud of how they have changed in my care," she adds.

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Abandoned Children 18
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova playing with little Anna. Dani Dukova's apartment smells like chocolate cake. When she opens the door, a small brunette with two braids enters. It is Anna, age four. Dani has been in Dukova's care for one year. "It is the fifth child I have at home since I decided to become a host family," explains Dukova. "When the girl first arrived from the institution, she used to bang her head against the walls. It was hard to watch. Now, she's much better. " Dukova knows that one day, Anna will leave when foster parents in Bulgaria or in the United States decide to take her on. "I cry when they leave, but I am very proud of how they have changed in my care," she adds.

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Abandoned Children 17
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A doctor and a nurse in front of a sleeping disabled child. Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 16
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little girl playing in the garden of Shumen Institution, the oldest institution in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 15
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova playing with little Anna. Dani Dukova's apartment smells like chocolate cake. When she opens the door, a small brunette with two braids enters. It is Anna, age four. Dani has been in Dukova's care for one year. "It is the fifth child I have at home since I decided to become a host family," explains Dukova. "When the girl first arrived from the institution, she used to bang her head against the walls. It was hard to watch. Now, she's much better. " Dukova knows that one day, Anna will leave when foster parents in Bulgaria or in the United States decide to take her on. "I cry when they leave, but I am very proud of how they have changed in my care," she adds.

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Abandoned Children 14
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A doctor and a nurse in front of a sleeping disabled child. Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 13
Shumen, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 12
Targovishte, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Zlatka Rizaeva, a nurse at the Turghovist Institution, takes care of a young disabled boy in the room where all the seven disabled children sleep at the institution.
As Rizaeva introduces us to the seven children, a girl holds on her two legs. Others spend their days sleeping, coiled in their colored sheets, sometimes unable to move. "It is very hard this work with them," admits Rizaeva. "They need a lot of care. And then, our job is often depreciated. People have difficulty understanding our everyday life here. They do not think of the many positive things this kind of institution offers."

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IMG_5425.jpg
Shumen
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A nurse plays with two children in the garden of Shumen Institution, the oldest institution in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 09
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 08
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A nurse plays with a little girl playing in the garden of Shumen Institution, the oldest institution in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little girl rests in her sister's arms. Roma children have the highest rates of abandoned children in Bulgaria.

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Abandoned Children 05
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A little girl plays in the garden of Shumen Institution. Shumen institution is the oldest in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

Shumen Institution is the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Abandoned Children 03
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

Dani Dukova welcomes abandoned children in her home for one year before they get adopted. Here, she shows painted hand-prints of all the children she has hosted.

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Abandoned Children 02
Targovishte, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
01 Jul 2014

At the Turghoviste Institution, a nurse feeds a disabled little girl. At the institution, there are seven nurses for seven disabled children. Children with less severe disabilities have a higher chance of getting adopted.

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Abandoned Children 01
Sofia, Bulgaria
By Simon Letellier
02 Jul 2014

A nurse watching over disabled children as they nap at Shumen Institution, the oldest one in Bulgaria. Built in 1935, it has previously housed hundreds of children. Because of de-institutionalization, they are now less than a dozen children within its walls, all with disabilities. Children with lighter disabilities come to spend the day there before heading back to their homes at night.

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Little girl wounded by shrapnel in Al...
Aleppo
By Simon Letellier
29 May 2013

After an airstrike, a wounded young girl arrived in a Aleppo hospital. She was carried in by an FSA soldier who found her lying next to her deceased mother in the street after the bombs hit. The young girl was covered in blood and peppered with shrapnel, screaming for her mother while her mother's corpse was carried into the hospital.

The soldier explained that the little girl and her mother were walking together when the bomb exploded nearby, immediately killing the mother. Doctors worked frantically to extract shrapnel from the little girl’s body. After giving her drugs to calm her down, they proceeded to the X-Ray room. The young girl's father arrived from work and discovered his injured daughter laying on the surgical table, then collapsed and began to cry. Due to the quick response of the medical staff, the little girl survived but two young Free Syrian Army soldiers who arrived shortly after her died.

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Drug Addict 17
Paris, France
By Simon Letellier
16 Apr 2013

Philippe smoking cocaïne at a laundromat.

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Drug Addict 14
Paris
By Simon Letellier
16 Apr 2013

Philippe showing a few crack pipes and a small strip used for preparing the cocaïne.

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Drug Addict 1
Paris, France
By Simon Letellier
16 Apr 2013

Philippe is happy to show his new teeth which was paid for by his social insurance.

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Drug Addict 4
Paris, France
By Simon Letellier
17 Apr 2013

Few weeks later, I find back Philippe in a laundromat.

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Drug Addict 15
Paris, France
By Simon Letellier
05 Mar 2013

Even if he feels tired, Philippe wants a last shoot and goes out to try and find some. Outside it’s snowing.

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Drug Addict 2
Paris, France
By Simon Letellier
05 Mar 2013

Philippe showing his last tooth. Smoking crack and cocaïne destroys the teeth. Most drug addicts suffer from damaged teeth and some have none.

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Drug Addict 3
Paris, France
By Simon Letellier
05 Mar 2013

At the end of the day, Philippe is tired. He didn’t eat anything in the day and he is exhausted.

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Drug Addict 7
Paris, France
By Simon Letellier
05 Mar 2013

At the end of the day Philippe is tired. He didn’t eat anything in the day and he is far-fetched.

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Drug Addict 8
Paris, France
By Simon Letellier
05 Mar 2013

Philippe tidies up the few things he brought to the room.

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Drug Addict 4
Paris, France
By Simon Letellier
05 Mar 2013

At the end of the day, Philippe doesn’t have any more money to pay for his room in a hotel. An association for helping drug addicts helps him by paying for a room. It is freezing outside and he doesn't want to sleep in the streets.

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Drug Addict 5
Paris, France
By Simon Letellier
04 Mar 2013

Philippe smoking cocaïne. He used to smoke it around ten times per day.

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Drug Addict 6
Paris, France
By Simon Letellier
04 Mar 2013

On the bottom of another highway, Philippe is smoking cocaïne in a makeshift shelter built with waste materials found in the area.