Whenever photographer Gabriele Galimberti meets people on his travels, he asks the same question: Can I see what’s in your medicine cabinet? Some are shy; others proud to do so. “The medicines reveal who the people are,” says Galimberti. “Their desires, their wants, their diseases. It’s very intimate.”
What can our medicines say about us? For one, how affluent we are. Cabinets in developed countries tend to overflow with pharmaceuticals. People in less developed countries collect medications more slowly or not at all. A Haitian woman had not a single pill in the house: “If I get sick, I’ll buy a pill from the street vendor,” she said.
The medicine cabinet series, “Home Pharma,” is part of a larger ongoing project, called “Happy Pills,” in which Galimberti and three colleagues document humans’ never-ending pursuit of happiness through chemistry. People take pills to be stronger, to sleep more (or sometimes less), to age more slowly, to be more virile, to promote pregnancy, or to prevent it. The reasons people buy medicines—and hoard them—are just as plentiful: because they’re cheap or because more advanced medical care isn’t cheap, because we’re anxious about being unprepared, or because we were once prescribed them and don’t know how to dispose of the rest.