Smoke Free

After more than 10 years of living life as a reformed smoker, I wanted to look into what made it such a draw for me. I wanted to explore what made me love it so that in the face of a true health risk I would continue to do it. Smoke Free is a double entendre shot entirely at 240 frames per second, and includes portraits of the people I interviewed.

I just love how relaxing and hypnotic it is…


I was dreaming. Which wasn’t something I did a lot of at the time. In my dream I was riding my bicycle, which was something I did a lot of at the time. I was riding uphill on my bike, in my dream. The hill seemed to be getting steeper but I could see the top. I pushed harder, in my dream. I felt myself working harder to get up the hill, my heart working harder. In my dream I was getting closer to the top, slowing down, and pushing still harder, compelled to reach the top, and right about there… I woke up. Out of my dream, my heart was pounding. I was actually short of breath, and my heart kept pounding. I could feel it like a middle weight slugging the inside of my chest. I thought: It was only a dream… my heart will slow… I’ll relax… and then I can get back to sleep. But it didn’t slow, and it wasn’t regular like a steam engine pumping away in time, this was spasmodic: the fitful churning of a drunken break dancer. Something had gone wrong and for the first time in my life I was out of sync with the Universe.

I was a smoker. Daily, maybe a pack, and occasionally cigars. It was a part of my life and I had accessorized for it. I loved it. Until my heart skipped a beat. Literally. I know people say that at times like when they fall in love, but it’s not the same feeling I would equate with falling in love. My heart skipped a beat for the briefest of moments. It happened about a week before the bicycle dream, and when it did happen, it felt like the blood had momentarily drained from my head. I felt flushed, and then slightly dizzy. And I had a pretty good idea what the culprit was. But I kept on smoking. I told you I loved it. And then a week later, I was riding my bike in a dream…

After more than 10 years of living life as a reformed smoker, I wanted to look into what made it such a draw for me. I wanted to explore what made me love it so that in the face of a true health risk I would continue. And in a society that promotes non-smoking, what it is like to be a smoker where being so takes a real commitment. Smoke Free is a double entendre: it is an exploration into the lives of people who smoke because they want to; people who don’t normally smoke but like to on occasion; and those who wish they didn’t smoke at all.

A series of portraits were also made of the people who took part in Smoke Free. You can click on the images to see a larger version.

My sincere thanks to all those who participated in this project.

Music: The Cool Of The Day by Remedy Drive. Licensed through Musicbed

Author: Jeff Gatesman

I am a motion picture Director of Photography and still photographer.

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