David Molina – Heroes

David Molina



“Heroes” is a personal body of work about my family and how my uncle’s heroin addiction and his death from overdose affected and changed our lives.

What I am presenting now is the first step of a long term project, starting on chapter 1: “The Man Who Sold the World”.

I took these photos during the first year of his absence, when I started to think about explaining our story and also trying to search for some answers.

Heroin brought and took off Santi’s life. Little part of his days, when there was music and drugs, he was like a Hero, living between sparkling little moments of happiness and madness.

And that ripped my home apart.

Afterwards and during the process of this project, I felt the need to explore other families affected by heroin in similar and different ways from mine, in order to understand and maybe bring a little light or visibility to this sometimes hidden part of our reality. This second part or chapter of my work, “Half a World Away”, is pretended to take place the following year in Paris, Tokyo and Kabul – three different cities that represent Europe, Asia and particularly Afghanistan, the country with 90% of heroin production in the world.



I studied arts in Massana School of Barcelona from 2009 to 2012, where I found my way of expression and I started with photography.
When I was 19 I started to collaborate in the journal of my town (Sant Cugat, Barcelona), with the city council, other organizations and particulars to work on daily news, photography of cultural and social activities, commercial work…

Last year I went to the Basque Country to live and work, moving shortly after to Belgium, where I am living at the moment, volunteering and developing my photography work. This year I collaborated with 24 portraits in the book “Humans o Post-humans”, published by Editorial Fragmenta.

As a photographer, I focus on exploring social and cultural relations within families, friends, cities and countries.
Currently I’m working on 3 bodies of work: The “Heroes” project, “Imitation of Life”, in european cities like Paris or Ghent and “Refused asylum seekers in Europe” about closed refugee centers and deportations.

Related links

David Molina

FujiFilm/EPF Young Talent Award

The FujiFilm/EPF Young Talent Award is an additional grant for photographers under 25. Using David Alan Harvey’s words “A heart felt thank you also to FujiFilm for making it possible for the EPF to keep focus on the future generations, the young ones, the ones with a vision already making a mark now… and just might make another jump soon…”




47 thoughts on “David Molina – Heroes”

  1. this is very interesting…the photographer is dealing with personal pain and shooting seemingly disconnected subjects….yet visually David stays TIGHT….very strong imagery….yet he probably did not make it for the top grant because i am sure the jury would have wanted at least a modicum of connection between the pictures and his stated concept….this is a fine line to walk….

  2. I like a few of the shots. The landscape, and the couple in the dappled light by the schools. I see some photos tell stories, probably all of them, just not apparent to anyone but the photographer. Whether it adds up to a story consistent with the artist statement, I’m not so sure. I’ve certainly seen worse.

    What gets me, is the tired look. Gritty, high contrast, overly dramatic black-and-white photography is just getting old, especially when done by young people. There are other possible visual languages to depict the angst of youth, or just the angst of living in this unjust world. At this point in the history of photography, it should be the last choice of visual communication, not the first. imo

  3. So is this a work of fiction?

    David says that his next work is ‘pretended to take place the following year in Paris’ etc. so I presume this work is also fiction?


  4. This looks like someone’s personal nightmare, disjointed, crazy, one scene leading indiscriminately to another, disconnected, defying logic, making no sense, yet injected with a terrifying and horrible beauty that draws one back to it again and again. As it is about heroin, I guess that’s exactly what it is. Well done.

  5. Frostfrog, is this really about heroin? I’m not sure, from reading the introduction, if this is a response to a real event or a work of fiction. I’d really like to know just what is real and what isn’t. The confusion may just be the intro, but I’d like clarification.


  6. What you want to express is a reality, it became really a person very close to, and now no longer is. With its footgrafia has wanted to express what he feels and what happens, in this dark, cruel world…

  7. really digging the fact that these photographers are so young. Some good photos here but I think maybe he’s put the cart (i.e. explaining the’essay’) before the horse (the actual photos themselves). Lots of people influenced nope by the likes of Sobol and Parke, but without really understanding what makes their photos tick – that they appear random but are actually really tight bodies of work. That said, keep shooting and it may very well all gel together someday magnificently.

  8. Mike R. The creator of the essay says its about heroin, so, whether a fictionalized account or actual, it’s about heroin. Tom Joad may not have existed, but the Grapes of Wrath, fiction though it be, is definitely about the depression era migration of midwest dust bowl farmers to California. I have never experienced heroin personally, but from what I gather its use can create fiction in the human brain.

  9. A peculiar trend of blurry ,shaky dark pictures of personal projects,we have to gulp these images as
    Modern fine art photography.Grab a camera ,shake that or somersault with that you can make a Masterpiece or become a photographer of Magnum may be it’s your mother ,dog ,uncle.

  10. Bill, I’m aware that it is possible to tell a story about reality using fiction; but if the vehicle used to tell the story (written or visual) is fiction, it should be stated at the outset.

    With all the controversy recently over World Press Photo (and others) and the discussion about altering photographs / removing or adding things to photographs, this is important.


  11. Mike R, I would agree that IF this is a work of fiction, it should be stated at the front. However, I took David at his word that this series is from the pictures he took during the year following the death of his uncle by heroin overdose. Due to your concerns, I have reread his statement a few times to see if I somehow missed something that would imply otherwise. I can’t see that I have. He clearly states these images are from that year and that he has is making a separate work that is fiction. But, if by chance you are right, then he should say so, but if you have have simply misinterpreted his words to mean something they don’t, I don’t know that he has that same obligation, but he still could if he wanted.

    I’m afraid that I have not paid any attention at all to World Press, NPPA, or any of the photojournalistic awards out there, even though a photojournalist is what I am, but Burn operates on a more freewheeling premise, where all forms of photographic expression and experimentation – straight, altered, distorted – are welcome if deemed to be quality work.

  12. I have read the introduction a number of times as well and I wonder if we are all getting hung up on his using the word pretended. The artist’s bio says that Mr Molina studied in Catalunya, so I am wondering if this is a case of someone who is not a native English speaker using a word that means something other than what he thinks it means, all of which sounds horribly patronizing to me now that I think about it and if it sounds that way to you, Mr Molina, please accept my apologies; I didn’t mean to be insulting.

  13. Just like A.J.P. Taylor and his account of history partly truth mainly a personal fiction. Myths and Legends is what we aspire to recreate next topic Little Red Riding hood goes to Syria

  14. Mike R – Thanks for the link. I enjoyed the article. It comes with much to think about. It reminded me of an incident several years back when I was covering an event called Kivgiq, which you could kind of liken to Carnivale, except that it is founded in Iñupiaq (Inuit of Northern Alaska) culture and tradition with its own unique meanings. At one point, I was sitting on the dance floor alongside a highly talented and skilled commercial photographer shooting for a corporation. I took a picture I liked greatly, except that my own foot had snuck into the lower part of the frame in a place where I could not crop it out. I showed it to the commercial photographer and lamented I had let my foot get into it, ruin it and now I could not use it. He shook his head in disbelief at my naivety and said, “No! No! No! Just clone your foot out!” Given the background it would have been a simple clone. But I was shooting for a documentary publication of my own creation and by my personal ethic I could not clone it out. In the end, this didn’t turn out to be much of a problem because it was a five day celebration and every day I shot from early morning to early morning and so wound up with far more photos than I could ever know what to do with.

  15. I should probably add that much of what I have seen on Burn has made me begin to question whether or not I should continue to be such a stickler for the literal moment or not. When I’m doing documentary/journalism work,though, I am.

    There is one exception. A vert few times, I have a group shot to include in something and in every frame somebody looks goofy. I have replaced the goofy faces with better faces, when I had another frame in the exact setting and the same basic moment in time. It was not a picture I was ever going to enter in any contest, anyway.

  16. Bill, thanks for your thoughts on the matter. As shown in the article by Michael Kamber, photo manipulation happened in the days of film, but it was not as prevalent – or as easy. I read that W. Eugene Smith’s take on manipulation was “I didn’t make the rules so why should I follow them?”. The problem we have today with Photoshop (which I have never used other than to remove dust spots) is that we are able to ‘construct’ photographs. It could even be argued that such a construction told the story ‘better’ than the stand-alone photographs, but the problem is that the credibility of photography comes into question and, when photography is used for photojournalism, this is important, as I’m sure you will agree. For other genres, Photoshop is a very creative tool, as Imants’ work attests.


  17. The camera/Photoshop is about communicating it is language who cares if there are lairs and cheats that take advantage of it all……. that is a norm with us humans bugger them……………. use it to communicate not condemn it as some sort of lie

  18. “but the problem is that the credibility of photography comes into question…”

    No, photography has no credibility. If it ever did, it was trampled to death a long, long time ago.

    However, individual photographers and, more importantly, publications may or may not have credibility. The publication’s credibility rests on having rules, making them known and following them. If they have no rules and make that known, fine. The photographer’s credibility, in regards to manipulation, rests on honesty when self-publishing and following the publication’s rules when on assignment.

    For news photography, it’s vitally important for publications to earn and maintain credibility. As anyone with any kind of social media presence, or has studied Fox News and other propaganda outlets, knows, there is a serious effort being made to discredit honest journalism. Just the other day, for example, I saw a meme I’ve seen a hundred times before that claimed NBC edited out someone they interviewed’s statements about their Christian faith. It took 30 seconds of research to debunk that story, it was completely fabricated, yet it had been circulating for several years. It’s purpose is clearly to make Christians distrust independent media.

    So when independent media, or the journalists who work for them, turn fact into fiction, they do far more damage than to just their individual reputations. They help some of the worst people in the world destroy the reputations of some of the best.

    When (rarely) I get into media criticism with (I’ll just call them what they are) brainwashed right wingers and they blather on about the liberal media, I tell them that all publications make mistakes and that their political beliefs sometimes are reflected in their work, but that quality publications make serious efforts to be factual and correct their errors when they happen; whereas propaganda outlets such as Fox or hate radio are openly partisan and regularly, and unapologetically, just make shit up.

    Then of course, you have the NYT and their shameful coverage of the Clintons to counter that contention, but that’s another argument.

    Anyway, if it’s fact, it needs to be factual. If it’s fiction, it needs to be labeled as such and not published in factual publications.

    Of course their are trickier areas like Bill’s foot. Personally, and I think for most honest media, I think cloning out the foot falls under the category of cropping to remove distracting items as long as it doesn’t change the basic nature of the image. Whereas cloning out the garbage bag in the famous NatGeo contest photo changes the basic nature, and honesty, of the image. Same with dust spots.

  19. Whereas cloning out the garbage bag in the famous NatGeo contest photo changes the basic nature, and honesty, of the image…………….just as selective framing

  20. “Whereas cloning out the garbage bag in the famous NatGeo contest photo changes the basic nature, and honesty, of the image…………….just as selective framing”.

    The reason the garbage bag removal causes a problem is because many people believe what they see in National geographic to be true i.e. as seen by the photographer. It’s a question of trust and when trust is lost it’s very difficult to regain.

    As to the issue of selective framing; I read an article recently that dealt with just this issue (I’ve looked for it but can’t find it (on the Internet)). The photojournalist who had produced the article had been at the protests in Kiev, Ukraine, and noticed that the reports in Western newspapers and t.v. showed what looked to be a city in turmoil, whereas the reality was that the protests were confined to a small area. He produced montages (via photoshop) to show how the protests, although very real and very important, were in a confined area. The montages were deliberately imperfect (e.g. people appearing twice in a montage) to inform readers of the technique being used. It could be argued that the result told a truer picture of events than the separate photographs were able to do. The important part was that the technique and the reason for it was explained to readers.


  21. The reason the garbage bag removal causes a problem is because many people believe what they see in National geographic to be true i.e. as seen by the photographer. It’s a question of trust and when trust is lost it’s very difficult to regain.

    These days subjective truth overrides so called literal/visual truth. Put it another way probably at least a quarter of the world’s population don’t believe that the earth revolves around the sun.

  22. Ross: that’s the one. It really does point out the difficulties of visual story-telling. What to include, what to leave out…

    Thanks Ross.


  23. The audience/public are now actively involved as the storytellers, photographers are not the keepers of stories they are just part players within a larger voice.

    Weber lost his creditability in the article when he played the Leica hand

  24. A thoughtful, intelligent article that must have taken a great deal of effort to produce – dismissed in a short sentence. Did you read the article Imants or did you just scan for the word Leica?

    How can an audience be the storyteller? Either you are one or the other.


  25. Did you read the article Imants or did you just scan for the word Leica?…….. Now that is a low and nasty baseless supposition shows how low you are willing to stoop.

    How can an audience be the storyteller? Its called interaction storytelling is not static it grows, lives, transforms……

  26. kids , stay away from heroin, otherwise you gonna end up like this fool in the following video… first the lunacy then the rehab ,then the priest…
    one thing for sure… there are many different ways for one to approach this “overdone”, oversaturated “subject”…
    i personally prefer to approach situations like this in a very “light” way… i cant beat the drama with more drama… i cant be the observer , i need to be the “subject” otherwise it all gets boring and pedantic..ok, time for an AA meeting :)

  27. “However, there is no cheap substitute for good story-sense and, as such, good story sense gets overlooked.”

    Where have we heard that before?

    I thought it was an interesting article that made a lot of good points. The problem is that by taking the paying media out of it, we leave news photography to the wealthy, which is pretty much where it’s at anyway.

    But I agree, a photographer who is an author rather than a bystander can tell a powerful story that goes far deeper than any technically excellent photo. More so if he or she works with a writer whose work serves as illumination for the photography rather than the other way around.

    But that brings me back around to the recent conversation about the photo book industry. What use is it, other than for the photographer’s career, to sell 1000 – 3000 copies of something? There needs to be a way to get much more of a mass audience for these stories. Of course a quick search tells me the average novel only sells about 10,000 copies, but many do sell a lot more, and they also get passed around and checked out through libraries. I guess the more realistic answer is through video and documentaries which have large distribution networks that reach a lot of people. Part of the great appeal and beauty of still photography (and writing), however, is that any one person can do it on a very low budget. The simplest documentary has 20 or 30 people in the credits and the costs are daunting.

    Regarding the diversion, the author criticized the Leica aesthetic, which I understood as that’s how I was raised in J-School and that’s what he shows in all those examples. It’s a stretch to consider that to be pimping Leica the company or product.

  28. MW, good post, it’s ironic that we now have the technology to produce great photojournalism – but no market to show it, for many.

    Imant, apologies; I’ve just checked your previous posts and I can see that you are a sensitive soul, sorry for any offence.


  29. “How can an audience be the storyteller? Either you are one or the other.” Mike, you aren’t keeping up with your Fish and Foucault. The storyteller merely fulfills the author function; the reader creates the meaning of the text. Why readers would want to do this is beyond me, especially with the Yankees and the Mets both in first place, but stranger things have happened.

  30. Akaky, I thought Imants was just employing sophism – either that or he was pissed-off at Australia losing The Ashes.


  31. Australia lost the ashes…I see…did they look under the couch for them? That’s where I look for things I lose. Seems to work most of the time, though I can’t really figure out how the stuff got under the couch in the first place.

  32. Panos. This is true. I only now got to your video and a little more than half way through, Jimmy, my good black cat, jumped up on my computer, turned reset the video back to zero, on pause. When I started it up again, it was completely silent. Jimmy had turned the sound off, too. I will stay away from heroin, Panos, I promise you that. I have taken your message to heart and Jimmy has reinforced it.

    As to the rest of the discussion, I did read the Weber piece and I have some thoughts on all parts of the discussion it has kicked off, but I’m having a little trouble making my brain do what I want it to do, am finding it harder than usual to craft a sentence, so in the name of peace, brotherly love, good will and sensitivity, I will keep those thoughts to myself, set the three app updates pending in my Adobe Creative Cloud to download and install, feed my fish, feed my cats, go to bed believing I will wake up in the morning and leave it at that.

  33. If you can’t take it Imants, don’t give it out – and you do give it out.

    In the spirit of reconciliation, I once read about Noel Coward (almost certain it was he) being asked at Immigration on arriving in Australia, if he had a criminal record, to which he replied “I didn’t know it was still a requirement”.

    Apologies if I upset you Imants.


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