chris arnade

Cynthia, forty six, starting working as a prostitute at the age of thirteen. She turned to the streets after battling her single mother in Brooklyn. “I didn’t want to listen to her. She didn’t give me any time.” Cynthia is now the mother of fifteen children, eleven of whom are still alive. Her “baby” is sixteen, her oldest child thirty.

We talked about the child prostitutes in Hunts Point now. She told me “Hunts Point isn’t what it used to be, when the girls would stick together. Then came crack and heroin, that fucked up everything. A girl out there at that age. She got no choice.” It ain’t right.

Cynthia was strung out, agitated and slurring. When I asked her how she wanted to be described she looked me in the eye, thought for a second, then said “An honest person. Thats what I am. An honest person.”

 

chris is a banker at day

and a storyteller at night. He roams the streets after work in search of “someone or something who deserves attention but is not looking for it” and then brings us the real face of prostitution and drug addiction, but not only. Seeing his work is a humbling experience and reading the stories of his subjects is making it into a moment in which all balance is lost. The gap between “them” and you will close, and you will realize that your story is one of luck and privilege. 

All the texts describing the images are original and belong to Chris Arnade. Enjoy!

 

questionable questionnaire

What`s your ideal job?

I have my ideal job! During the day I work as banker and at night and on weekends as a photographer. Both are very different but equally challenging.

When is the last time you saw the sunrise?

This morning.  I walk over the Brooklyn bridge to work, starting at 6am, so each day I get a wonderful view from the top of the sunrise over Brooklyn.

What does the night smell like, to you?

Ha, literally damp smoke, as I am almost always in Hunts point or East NY talking to addicts. They smoke a great deal and the night brings a nice cool wetness to the streets.

 

 

Ron, fifty-three, grew up in North Carolina, moved to NYC in his early twenties. He spent most of his early years in and out of incarceration. At thirteen he started stealing; his first offense was a bicycle. “It was neon, and you could see it glowing from far away. I was like, I got to have that.” In New York City he fell into drugs, “crack, dope, pretty much all that stuff.” He has been clean for the last seven years: “I just got tired of all that bullshit. Too much running around, too much stress. I don’t do anything but these cigarrattes now. I don’t need to wake up feeling awful. I want contentment, and that crap doesn’t help with that.”

He is now in school to get his certificate for refrigeration repair. He works during the day and attends school at night.

When I asked him how he wanted to be described, he gave a huge grin and said, “I am good man, who you don’t want to fuck with.”

I ran into Jackie, twenty-eight, and Natalie after midnight. They were getting snacks and dollar bottle shots of liqour. Jackie became addicted to heroin and crack at an early age, and lost her four children to the state. “I was a young mother fucked up on drugs. I neglected them.” She is a homeless prostitute and has been living wherever, rooftops, abandoned buildings, empty lots, for the last eight years, and is now in the methadone clinic in Hunts Point. “You live on the streets as a girl, you get raped. It just is.”

When I asked her what her dream is, she said with a big smile “I want to get my GED, become a nurse, and get my kids back. I just want my kids.”

Pam, 46, from Delaware, was raped at the age of eleven, and started using PCP at twelve. The mother of three bi-racial children (the youngest now 25), she was disowned by her “prejudice family.” The husband of her children passed away “far to early,” leaving her with no support. She now walks the streets of Hunts Point, trying to make enough for heroin or crack.

When last in jail, four years for robbery, she wrote a series of twenty-six childrens books, one for each letter of the alphabet. “My dream is to publish the books and be able to use the money to support my paraplegic brother inlaw.”

For her GED graduation wrote a poem on addiction. On a desolate Hunts Point street she stood and proudly recited the entire three minute poem, only punctuated by the rumblings of airplanes leaving Laguardia.

Rubin called me this week and told me I had to come up and see something amazing. One of his pigeons had given birth to a baby with only one wing. Both Rubin and Vinny, life-long pigeon keepers, had never seen anything like it in over 40 years of flying and breeding pigeons.

They let me know that they were going to do everything they could to make sure the pigeon stayed healthy and safe. When the mothers start trying to push the babies out of the nest (in a few weeks) they will transfer this one to a special cage they built. They still haven’t come up with a name yet, although they are leaning towards “Lefty.” I suggested “Wingy” or “Uno,” but they are welcoming other suggestions.

Diane started turning tricks when she was twenty, having come to the Bronx from Yonkers. Her pimp introduced her to crack cocaine, a “god awful addiction” that she only recently kicked. She now lives in assisted housing, spending the days at a corner gas station near the main road used by the truckers.

She is the mother of three children, who now live in Arizona with their Grandmother. She tries to talk to them as often as possible. I asked her how she wanted to be described, and she said ‘as a good person. I have never hurt anyone, I just try my best to get by, make a living. I am decent.’

I came back to get some more shots, but the police arrived, asked her to leave, and then questioned me. Maybe another day.

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13 Responses to “chris arnade”

  1. J Sierra says:

    Drugs and alcohol abuse have become so pervasive in today's society and the real problem
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