Sydney based photographer Simon Bernhardt has never been one to beat around the bush or hide behind smoke and mirrors. He likes things raw and he likes them candid. His latest body of work dispels the myth (for some) of the unemployed, grubby pot smoker and opens the door to a modern day generation of professional, focused and squeaky clean partakers.

For decades, smoking pot has taken the stage in rock and roll and creative lifestyles and is readily adopted by those wishing to ‘zone out’ of society’s relentless demands in one way or another, be it on a recreational basis or as a full-time occupation.

Among the ever-changing faces of cannabis users are also those suffering from painful and debilitating illnesses and conditions who swear by weed’s reliable, pain relieving benefits. Where do they fit in this picture? The subject of the legalisation of marijuana often creates a heated debate. Most people have an opinion and some are quick to demonise this multi-purpose drug often without knowing much about it or the typical story of a regular toker. But who is a typical cannabis smoker these days? Bernhardt’s frank and straight forward approach in his latest photographic project might just answer some questions for those still in the dark.

Simon Bernhardt’s latest exhibition and 3rd publication entitled ‘Gateway’

Gateway opening at Sydney’s Black Eye Gallery this month features 16 engaging and contemporary portraits of Australians who are long-term cannabis users.

Through portraits of cannabis users, photographer Simon Bernhardt is attempting to dispel stereotypes while sparking the serious debate about whether cannabis is a gateway drug and it’s possible future legalisation for medicinal and recreational use in Australia.

“This exhibition is about making people aware that anyone can be a cannabis user. It will be confronting, engaging and thought-provoking” states Bernhardt. “The clinical manner in which I have shot these photographs aims to eliminate any emotion from the sensitive subject of illegal drug use and portray the human face and story behind cannabis users.

Bernhardt’s exhibition will also accompany a limited edition book, revealing each subject’s story, allowing them to share their thoughts on cannabis and the reasons behind their use of it.

“I know this project may not fit in with the general public opinion as I have never been a fan of any kind of political correctness. I believe it is sudden death to any form of creativity,” said Bernhardt.

“The subjects are long-term recreational or medicinal cannabis users, all have jobs and are highly professional people”.

“Through this collection, I’m displaying the rawness of cannabis users in Australia,” said Bernhardt.

Gateway Exhibition 18th-31st August 2014

BlackEye Gallery 3/138 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst Sydney.

Opening Night Thursday 21st August 6 pm

http://www.simonbernhardt.com/

http://blackeyegallery.com.au/