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Alcohol is a powerful substance. Drinking alcoholic beverages can put people at ease and cause them to be more social and to let loose. However, alcohol consumption can be a double-edged sword. While drinking alcoholic beverages in a social atmosphere can often be a positive experience, the substance certainly has a dark side. When one has exceeded their level of tolerance, they may make poor, and sometimes dangerous decisions that can negatively affect both their own and the lives of others. Furthermore, alcoholism is defined as, “a chronic disorder marked by excessive and usually compulsive drinking of alcohol leading to psychological and physical dependence or addiction,” (Merriam-Webster), but its affects can reach beyond the individual. Alcoholism is “known as a family disease,” (Parsons) because it affects not only the alcoholic, but all the people in close contact with the alcoholic. Alcohol is the cause of two extremes in its consumers. At one end of the spectrum, alcohol can cause temporary happiness and relaxation, but at the other, alcohol can cause a family countless physical and psychological problems.
In order to show the way in which alcohol is not always seen as dangerous or destructive, I started my book, Dissolved, with attractive photos of alcoholic beverages. These photos are meant to create a contrast, when juxtaposed with the second section of the book. To represent the extreme, life-affecting power of alcohol, I made a request to both people I knew and those I didn’t to anonymously contribute personal stories of a way in which alcohol had effected their lives. I found it interesting that all the stories I had received, with the exception of one, were negative stories. This strikes me as interesting because I feel that, in general, people associate consuming alcohol with fun. Once I had received those stories, I searched for discarded family photos that in some way made a visual-connection to the stories I had received, with which to appropriate. The connection between each story and its respective photo are each different and specific to each pair. To reference the destructive nature of alcohol, I used the concept that if photographs printed with ink were soaked in alcohol, the ink would begin to dissolve. To represent this, I created images of the found photos sitting in the same alcoholic beverages from the first section of the book, with ink swirling around in the drinks. The photos I chose to appropriate, have a vintage, dated look to them, which make them seem like memories. However, in the photographs in which the inks are dissolving, it seems almost as if one’s happy memories are fading away, due to the destruction of the alcoholic beverages. The pages on which the found photos are seen dissolving in alcohol face a page in which their corresponding contributed story is typed out, in the shape of glasses, bottles and other containers associated with the particular drink each photo is soaked in. The unnatural text-box shape may cause the reader some difficulty in reading each story, which further pushes the idea that alcohol can shape and distort our perceptions and memories. Furthermore, we are so familiar with images of alcohol that they become immediately recognizable to us, even when the outline of these objects are constructed of text.
Overall, this book is meant to provoke thought about the different perceptions we have about alcohol consumption and our attitudes about it. It may bring up questions like, “Why, if we know alcohol can be extremely destructive, do we continue to embrace it as a regular part of social life?” or “How far have the effects of alcohol reached in my family tree?” It was not my intention to answer these questions, or make judgement on the morality of consuming alcohol, but rather provoke thought and allow each reader to construct their own thoughts and feelings on the subject.

Works Cited

"alcoholism." Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, Web.

Parsons, Tetyana. "Alcoholism and Its Effect on the Family ." AllPsych Journal (2003): n. pag. Web. 16 Jan 2011.


About the Author

Ben Lariviere
BenLariviere Toronto, ON

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