Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
June 5, 2015

A Demanding Photo from Lynn Johnson’s National Geographic Cannabis Feature

(Note: if you already read the companion post at Medium, you can skip straight to paragraph 4.)

If you’re a regular BagNews reader, you might recall this review we did a couple weeks back of a photo feature at TIME. Inspired by legalization in Colorado, those pictures featured pot smokers ingesting their favorite flower. The problem? The edit failed to recognize that cannabis, as an increasingly important medical treatment, as well as an increasingly mainstream cultural phenomena, bears little resemble to the stereotypical scenes those photos depicted.

In emphatic contrast, National Geographic just published a thoroughly up-to-date and informative feature on the state of ganga. (Note: Mr. Goodbar is nowhere to be found.) As part of that report, NatGeo contracted the thoughtful photographer, Lynn Johnson, to illuminate all that’s new about the ancient leaf. There are many photos in the slideshow that jump out at me to written about. (Here, by the way, is one more I posted over at Medium.)

What’s powerful about the photo above is how it functions as testimony. Like another child in the slideshow who takes non-psychoactive CBD for seizure disorder, Kim Clark’s 11 year-old has been taking the medicine, with remarkable success, for epilepsy. While Caden is tranfixed by Johnson, his mother, presumably mindful of the lingering stigma surrounding cannabis, commands a deeper understanding from us.

(photo: Lynn Johnson caption: Kim Clark’s younger son, Caden, 11, suffers from severe epilepsy. Despite having brain surgery twice, he’d never had a seizure-free day until he started taking CBD oil.)

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