Jeff Bierk
Jeff Bierk
Photographs / Journal
ask, theme

// from Jeff Bierk on Vimeo.


Sid was my friend and he died last week. He was murdered, stabbed in the heart. I’ve been away, and heard about it today. It wasn’t in the news, because, as Derek said, “If an Indian dies on the street… no one gives a shit. They blame it on alcoholism, blame it on being homeless…they say it’s a ‘lifestyle choice’ ” Sid was 40 years old, he had only been in Toronto for three months, and I remember the first time we met he swore that he knew me. We became good friends, I saw him almost every day and through some hard times. Sid was so kind to me, we talked about everything. He was always laughing, even the nights when he was shaking from the cold. I have nothing but love and respect for him - he was a gentle, warm man - he was a true survivor of the system. This afternoon we honoured him in the Back 40 with photographs and flowers. It may not have been “important” enough for his death to make the news, but he was important to me, important in our community and he will not be forgotten. He affected my life in the most beautiful way.


(radio in background, music) (clicking of camera) 

Melanie: …Albuquerque, Denver, Colorado, Las Vegas, Chicago, Miami, New York, Massachusetts, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and ah… I accumulated quite a few charges… (laughs) throughout the years, and ah, when 9-11 hit, they started running your name. They didn’t used to run your name, like, state, country wide… n’through NCIC, they used to just do it country wide. But now since 9-11, they’re running it everywhere. So they came up with I had 300 charges, like phff 30 bench warrants n’they put me in an immigration prison…

Jeff Bierk: Holy fuck. 

Melanie: …down in a, right above the Mason-Dixie line (laughs) It was a real prejudice place, and they were in the process of deporting me. So, I wound up being deported, and they just, I did some time down there in Rikers Island, and then in Philadelphia, n’then at the immigration prison, and they put me in a van, and they drove me and left me at the Peace Bridge (laughs) I’m from Vancouver. I never been here before in my life, you know? I was like oh thank you guys (laughs) Fuck off! …but ah, I actually was in the stree, stre, like in the streets since I was fourteen, and I never got high until I turned like 32… but I had some guy pick me up and he beat the shit outta me with a gun… and broke my nose, and my clavicle… fuckin’ I was just black n’ blue everywhere… and I started sniffing heroin… and that’s how I got started. I was into the heroin, for like, weeks. I was so fucked up, and hurting. I didn’t wanta go to the doctor cuz I had all these warrants… (coughs) So, I self medicated (laughs) …wound up from nodding off the heroin, I started smoking the crack. Kinda level it out. 

Melissa: (walks in with a cardboard box full of needles) You’re lucky… you’re in luck. I got you the one cc’s, and here’s a whack of ties

Melanie: Thank’s sweetheart. 

Melissa: I spilt the rest of the ties all over the floor, so… 

Melanie: You start throwing them away there’s so many. 

Melissa: Where’s the difference? see… oh yeah, right

Melanie: There tiny’er 

Melissa: They’re too tiny to get in? 

Melanie: Yeah, cuz the morphine’s too thick, you know?

Melissa: Yeah, yup… you gonna do a whack right now?

Melanie: Mmm I suppose so… but I was down there. You’s guys said 12 o’clock

JB: I was waiting for her at 12! She wasn’t there. 

(click) (click) (click)


JB: So, I saw you one day. I’m going to tell you the story… 

(knock on the door)

Melanie: who is it? 

(Voice from outside the door)  Hi, do you know who I am? 

Melanie: yup

(Voice from outside the door) This is an N 5

Melanie: Eviction!

(Voices too quiet to hear)


Melanie: I’ve been waiting for it. My worker told me, um, like 3 weeks ago, and we’ve been waiting, well, because of all the traffic. But it doesn’t matter, cuz I want to get out of here anyways. I need a bathtub, you know what I mean? 

Melissa: You need a safer place, where you’re not going to be getting all of the drugs rushed up to you. I mean, these people outside, don’t they give a fuck about you?

Melanie: I’ve already been looking at other places.

Melissa: These people… fuck… you’re my only friend here. 

JB: We’re friends? 



Melanie: Anyhow, you started saying… um how… 

Melissa: So I got a letter, right? On the door, but it’s written in the same fuckin’ handwriting as what was written on that door.

Melanie: Oh really?

Melissa: Yeah, so I’m thinking…

Melanie: How interesting. 

Melissa: …even the lady downstairs said it could be a harassment suit…. 

Melanie: possibly

Melissa: I don’t know who left me that note, but it says - Hey crack ho, don’t shit where you eat…

Melanie: yeah that was nasty…. nasty. 

JB: Fuck off!!

Melissa: …and if you don’t understand what I’m saying, talk to your worker…. and I’m like who the fuck would write a note like that, and definitely you were crossed off the list right away. 

Melanie: but if you’re going to write something like that, you’re going to write something like that! Fuckin’ sign your name!

JB: yup

Melissa: yeah, exactly

Melanie: Have some fuckin’ balls about your ass! If I’m bothering you that much let me know!

Melissa: Yeah, whatever happened to the mind your own fuckin’ business and get a life…

Melanie: Exactly.

Melissa: …you know what I mean?


(Melanie cooking drugs)

Melanie: Anyhow, you had started to say that you had seen me one day or something? 

JB: yeah, so I go to… you know I’m the same as you… I know we’ve had completely different experiences, you know? but we’ve felt the same things… and if I hadn’t had certain things happen in my life, people dying, I wouldn’t be sober right now… 

Melanie: yeah… 

Melissa: He’s had a lot of pain…. 

JB: …so I, one of the things that helps me stay sober, I, we take a meeting into St. Mike’s detox, we bring a meeting in… 

Melanie: okay, yeah…

JB: …and in the summer, one Friday, you passed me in the street…. 

Melanie: yeah.. 

JB: and I really wanted to take your photograph, but I don’t know, I just didn’t, I didn’t ask you… and then when I was leaving, I saw you again… in the park, doing a smash, and again, I didn’t have….

Melanie: You saw me doing a smash in Moss Park? (laughs)

JB: I didn’t ask you, and it bothered me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and…. ahhh I just needed to find you. My whole thing is, I want to show fucking… like if I ever have show, I don’t want to put nice, safe pictures, you know… like landscapes, or flowers on the wall. I love stories, and I want to talk about all the things, the fucking things that have affected my life. I want to show people real shit that’s going on in the world, so that people know what’s going on. I want to confront them with it. 

Melissa: Exactly!! Make them aware and maybe they can change their minds about taking the road that we took!

JB: Exactly 

Melissa: You know what I mean?

Melanie: Definitely…. I do. 

Melissa: I hope this isn’t triggering you… is this triggering you at all? 

JB: a little bit…. (laughs)

Melissa: Well, okay… well, I’m really sorry about that. 

JB: No, no, no. It’s fine, I’m good….. the light’s perfect here… 

(click) (click) (click) 

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