Laura Noel – Smoke Break

My pictures concern the attitudes – defiance, enjoyment, resignation, and contentment – of those who continue to smoke cigarettes in the face of public disapproval. More importantly, these portraits reveal that for some smokers, cigarettes are a way to enter into a state of contemplation.


Amy in her Backyard, 2005

This introspective pause in a hectic world is more valuable to smokers than non-smokers would imagine.

A residue of glamour can also be seen in these photographs – the theatrical inhaling and exhaling, the sensual pleasure of watching smoke float and dissipate in the air, and the primal tie to fire. Though we may not approve of the act, we can understand the appeal of smoking, however false it may turn out to be.

The pull of addiction and self-image is strong, as evidenced by these images.
Since the anti-smoking movement began gaining momentum in the 1970’s, culminating in the current ban on public consumption, smokers have become social refugees banished to windy corners, cars, and private rooms. I am interested in exploring the idea that society has become so disenchanted with smokers, that we have tried to legislate them out of existence.

Of course, smoking is unhealthy and potentially fatal, but my images are not a defense of this dangerous practice, but instead a portrait of a diverse group of people united by a habit.


Steve, In His Bedroom, 2006




Tina, In Her Bedroom, 2007




Whitney, Behind Her Job, 2006




Bob-E, In His Bedroom, 2007




Micki, On Her Porch, 2006

More images and other interesting stories on Laura Noel’s website.