Raw opium

John Spies

Mae Hong Son, Thailand

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Artist's Description

A hilltribe farmer in the Golden Triangle region in northern Thailand uses a broad blade to scrape raw opium from a mature poppy seed pod that he had incised with a small multi-bladed knife. After slitting the pods, the milky sap oozes out and is left to coagulate into sticky raw opium. The farmers traditionally wrapped their harvest in sheets of dried poppy petals before selling it to traders for silver rupee coins from colonial India. The traders sold it on to jungle refineries where it was cooked and reduced into morphine at a ratio of 10:1. Further addition of other chemicals and processing converted the morphine into No 4 heroin, a white, water-soluable powder that is easy to smoke, snort or inject. The hilltribe farmers had no conception that their harvest would end up in the veins of western junkies in distant lands. They felt about as much guilt as a tobacco farmer might feel for lung cancer victims. Taken in 1980 with a Nikon FM2, Nikkor 55mm macro lens and kodachrome slide film.

Artwork Comments

  • micheleirene
  • John Spies
  • funkybunch
  • John Spies
  • Terri Chandler
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  • Joy Watson
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  • catherine walker
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