Needle Park, Zurich, 1992

Needle Park, Zurich

Needle Parks, whether authorized, overlooked, or underground, have been ubiquitous in many major western cities over the last 40 years. Zurich, Switzerland implemented a needle-exchange program in a main park downtown, and on my first trip to Europe, with Kristy and Tim Brauch, in 1992, we happened upon their Needle Park. It was pretty unbelievable, and pretty shocking. Now, it wouldn't have been anything but interesting, and I probably would simply approach the people and ask if I could shoot some photos. But at the time the longest lens I had was a 105mm, and I shot these photos from the driver's seat of our Renault, across the street. After shooting photos and trying to be inconspicuous for a few minutes, Kristy said "Oh my God, go!" I kept shooting. Tim was laughing, but then said, "shit,go!" I kept shooting until Kristy hit me and said "Someone's coming!" I dropped my camera into my lap as the guy who was crossing the street towards us broke into a full run, and just got the little car going as he approached us from behind and on the driver's side. He'd been holding a syringe and needle, and as we "escaped" he threw it at the back of the car. With the camera to my eye I hadn't even seen him... Looking back it was funny, but Kristy didn't laugh for a while.

Anyway, in these photos, which are grainy and too far away, you can still see a dude shooting up in the back of his hand, and the full-on shoot-up shop set up a block from the financial district in downtown Zurich. As we sat there, men who looked like "normal" business dudes walked up, removed their jackets, paid the guy selling the dope, took the needle, watched him heat it up, borrowed his rubber band, and shot up. They stood there making conversation like it was the most normal thing int he world for a few minutes, put their coats back on, and walked off where they had come from.

It was more than our suburban minds could handle at the time, but the images have always stuck with me. It just seemed like another wild, cool thing that you saw on skateboarding trips.

Needle Park 1
Needle Park 2
Needle Park 3
NeedlePark 4

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