British Columbia

Photo project shows resilience of people battling addiction in Prince George, B.C.

A photographer in Prince George is taking beautiful pictures of people who have battled addiction as a way to show their strength.

A hair and makeup team assisted photographer Courtney Taylor in portrait sessions

From left to right: Lori-Ann Ryser, Kristopher Betts and Mary Toman are all participants in photographer Courtney Taylor's The Warrior Project. (Submitted by Courtney Taylor)

Photographer Courtney Taylor says she was simply sitting on her couch one day when she got the idea for a new photography project. 

"I would call it a premonition, and it was more or less like, you know what, I'm sick of this. I'm sick of people feeling alone ... I'm sick of people disregarding addicts," Taylor told Radio West host Sarah Penton. 

Taylor took to Facebook with her idea: she would offer a professional portrait — complete with hair and makeup — for anyone struggling or who has struggled through addiction. 

After the Prince George Now, a local news station, ran a story about her post, Taylor started getting plenty of responses.

One of those people was Lori-Ann Ryser.

Photographer Courtney Taylor, left, with one of her subjects, Lori-Ann Ryser, in CBC's Prince George studio. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Ryser, 42, grew up in and out of foster care. She says she struggled with alcoholism from her late teens onwards.

Alcohol, she said, was a coping mechanism that helped fill a desperate need to be loved. It took a while for her to realize she had a problem and seek help. 

"I belong to a 12-step program and you walk into a room and you see so many different types of people who have different careers and different challenges and come from different homes as well. But when you walk through those doors like none of that matters. We're all just addicts trying to survive and and get one more day clean or sober or whatever it is right," Ryser said. 

She said the experience of getting her portrait done was wonderful — "I am going to plaster them all over my house and social media," she joked — but it was also powerful to see others go through the process. 

"I was looking at the people that were getting [makeup] services, and who like, really deserved it," Ryser said. "I still have a hard time thinking that I deserve it ... but I like seeing my friends and people I know that have had a really tough life and just get up every single day and try to do the best they can [getting pampered]."

The hair and makeup team behind the Warrior Project. From top left to bottom right: Reece Schmaltz, Tammy Nicholls, Ashley Basil, Kristen Hunter, Pamela Flann, Lexi Blake, and Courtney Taylor. (Submitted by Courtney Taylor)

Taylor says she hopes the photo project, which she calls The Warrior Project, will help strike a deeper conversation in the community about the human face behind addiction. 

"They fight for their lives. They fight for their lives every single day... They fought so hard to be here and I just want to honour them."

Listen to the segment on Radio West:

With files from Radio West