Faces of Addiction Photography Series
- By: Nate Kay
Chris Arnade captures the faces and stories of addicts in the South Bronx.
“What I am hoping to do, by allowing my subjects to share their dreams and burdens with the viewer and by photographing them with respect, is to show that everyone, regardless of their station in life, is as valid as anyone else.”
Here are a few of those photos and stories. You can follow Chris on Twitter.
Vanessa, thirty-five, had three children with an abusive husband. She “lost her mind, started doing heroin,” after losing the children, who were taken away and given to her mother. The drugs led to homelessness and prostitution. She grew up on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, but now spends her time in Hunts Point, “trying to survive everyday. Just doing whatever it takes.”
Disarmingly well spoken I asked him what he was doing “I am a panhandler sir.” I asked him how long he’s been homeless. “Since I got addicted to coke, about twenty years ago. I was a high school english teacher in Harlem, clean, then my mother passed and left me some money. I blew it on coke. I lost my job, my family, everything.”
Former pro boxer (lightweight) from Connecticut, now an addict living in a homeless shelter. Manny’s career ended after several injuries left him with a right eye that is unable to focus. Unable to fight, with little other skills, he found himself homeless and turned to heroin.
Nelson, who grew up in the Bronx, has been battling alcoholism since a teenager. He took a big swig from the brown paper bag and said “See, I can’t stop!” then proceeded to tell me how he lost his job, his home, his family. Unrepentant, he claimed to have found peace with the bottle.
‘I got into hookin late, when I was thirty one. Developed a bad dope problem, lost my job, needed money. I once had a pimp, but no more. Pimp stands for “Put in my pocket,” they just rip you off.’
I asked her how she wanted to be described ‘I am an African american women, half Jamaican, mother of two wonderful children. I fell on hard times, but do what I got to do.’
I call him Luis, but I am not sure. Luis is unable to do more than mutter a few words, often breaking down in tears. He refuses to go to the local shelter or Methadone clinic, sleeping instead in various spots, spending his waking hours bumming cigarettes and panhandling in front of bodegas.
I worry that my pictures put a happy face on addiction. Photos cannot capture the pain, suffering, and destruction wrought by heroin, crack or in this case whiskey. Sometimes it requires smoking a cigarette with a sobbing incoherent drunk to truly remind you what loneliness and addiction can do.
You can check out the rest of the Faces of Addiction set here. Chris has also recently started a new series called Faces of Recovery.