Pot Shots: How to Smoke Medical Marijuana

Portraits of patients in the act of inhaling.

You know how it is: first you get an assignment for Fortune magazine, and the next thing you know, you’re taking pictures of people smoking pot. At least, that’s how it worked for photographer Robyn Twomey. The Fortune story focused on the business of medical marijuana, and mostly entailed shooting pictures at pot dispensaries; but in the process Twomey got to know and photograph Jordan, a 19-year old who has a rare form of leukemia. This led to a series of over 30 portraits of medical marijuana clients as they administered their medication.

In these images, the smoke becomes part of the portrait: it’s a gesture, it’s a visualization of the subjects’ breath, it’s their environment. The smoke competes with the subject for our attention, and the strength of these pictures comes from the tension between the two.

The following images are a sampling from that project. Twomey will also be exhibiting large-format archival pigment prints from the project in an exhibit called Medicine, opening on March 3rd at the Patricia Sweetow Gallery in San Francisco. —Tim J Luddy