Obinna, my brother, was a drug addict; I was addicted to my camera and photographs. My addiction started when I was eleven years old. With a camera in hand, I could talk any beautiful girl in the village into posing the way I wanted. My father, however, was not happy about it. In fact, my father destroyed my first ”Yashica” camera. But my mother got me another one so I continued to photograph.
After a while, I started making money. I had become honest about my addiction and the honesty paid off. I began to think about Light, Compositions, Moments—the more I learned about these drugs, the worse my addiction became.
In Obinna’s case, his addiction started around the same age. He was twelve years old. For more than fifteen years, I watched him go from one heavy drug to another, but he remained smiling all the time. I could not comprehend the level of darkness around and inside him. He was helpless, I was helpless, and our country, Nigeria, was helpless. He slowly killed everyone around him without knowing it.
He said he was going to kill me too, but I had a camera in my hand, and he loved to be photographed. He also loved animals. One day, we found a wounded dove in our garden and we gave it bread and water. The bird died anyway. He refused to eat that day. To watch him slowly die, day after day, was the worse thing that has ever happened in my life. Oh brother, where are you?
—Cletus Nelson Nwadike
Editors’ Note: Cletus Nelson Nwadike is a member of the LensCulture Network, a recent initiative we launched with the idea of offering talented, accomplished photographers a place to showcase their work on a global stage while also giving them a place to share, learn and engage with one another. The LensCulture Network began with a small number of hand-picked members, and we are very excited to watch it grow and evolve.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like one of these previous features: Another Family, a controversial series about two drug addicts and their young daughter living in St. Petersburg; Was It a Dream, Ayala Gazit’s attempt to make a portrait of the brother she never met; and The Brothers, Elin Høyland’s series on two elderly, reclusive brothers who lived alone in rural Norway.