In seventh grade, Steven Perez was caught with heroin, which he says he had used daily for close to two years. Now 18, Perez says he refrains from drug use and focuses on music. His past addiction, however, continues to haunt him socially. Due to graduate from high school in May 2012, Perez plans to enroll at the University of North Texas in Denton.

Photo and story by multimedia director Danny Fulgencio

By age 13, Steven Perez had grappled with an imprisoned parent, a cancer-stricken sibling, clinical depression and heroin addiction. He was 18 when I photographed him for our May 2012 issue Unstoppable High School Seniors.

His love of music had helped him along the path to something more akin to normalcy. In 2010 Perez and his band bested 12 other hopefuls in a high school group competition at the House of Blues. The following year they won again.

Sounds like the start of a rockumentary, right?

But when I was asked to photograph Steven I wasn’t after a rock star photo. Steven struck me as an intelligent, introverted and perhaps prematurely haunted person. I wanted to show this, communicating a sense of intimacy, vulnerability.

So we hung out in his room talking about music. It was when I asked Steven to play for me that I got more than expected.

Steven had written a song titled “Glory,” an acoustic cascade that seemed both raucous reckoning and a searing atonement. He didn’t hold back, belting out line after line, rocking with the beat, strumming with great ferocity for a single audience member… and a camera. I was thankful for having been present.

We made dozens of photos that afternoon, but this one is my favorite.

Click here to check out a video of Steven playing “Glory.”

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