Tag Archives: pictures

The Streets of New York

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“This is a powerful collection of photos that truly reflect the outcome of drug use in on the streets of New York. While the pictures speak a thousand words, the accompanying descriptions shed more light on the individuals stories— although its more like a darkness. Chris Arnade is an inspirational photographer whose courage and curiosity drives him to meet hundreds of people who are suffering with addiction, poverty and what is typically seen as poor life decisions such as prostitution. You can visit his website to view more of his heart-breaking and thought-provoking work.” -Enjoy, Robyn

Chris

Chris

Chris Bishop was drinking in front of a liquor store when we met. A resident in the local homeless shelter, he told me the following: At the age of 13, Chris killed his father, stabbing him with a knife after a childhood of abuse. He spent the next 18 years in correctional facilities. ‘When he was drunk and mad he would hold me out the apartment window and threaten to drop me to the street, eight floors below. He beat me and my mother all the time. I have been drinking ever since. To forget.’ When I asked how he wanted to be described, his eyes teared up and he said, ‘I am human, like everyone else.

Vanessa

Vanessa

Vanessa, 35, 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 every day. Just doing whatever it takes.’ She was standing on the cold street corner looking for business, wearing only flip flops and smoking with her two friends. When I asked her how she wanted to be described, Mary Alice jumped in and said, ‘She’s the sweetest woman I know. She will give you the shirt off her back, if she has one on.

Beauty

Beauty

“Beauty, 21, was born and raised in Oklahoma, and was brought to New York City by a pimp who promised her she could ‘make some mad money.’ She has since had nine pimps. ‘I have been through nine nigg*s. Got my first black eye from one, another punched me in mouth, but this guy is good to me.’ Her mother was an addict. ‘She started using crack. That’s when it all started, the walls started coming in on me. Now she is incarcerated. I can’t blame my mom, she’s my mom. I smoke weed, but not crack. I don’t like that peppermint burning smell. I want to get out of this stuff, but I am scared. I guess I could stop at any time. Some of the guys tell me I could be a model. Money wise it’s good, but otherwise, fuck Hunts Point. Maybe I can become an RN, or go into childcare.’ When I asked her how she wanted to be described, she said, ‘I’m a good person. I don’t like to see anyone down. I like to make people happy.'”

Luis

Luis

“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.”

Clarence

Clarence

“The ‘brickyard’ is a vacant lot on an otherwise industrial side street in Hunts Point. It’s where many of the local addicts spend their time, gossiping and smoking. They bring their carts filled with what they can collect to sell to the adjacent scrap metal shops. It’s where I found Clarence, who has lived for 40 years in Hunts Point since moving from North Carolina as a teenager. I spoke with Clarence, a former truck driver, for a long time. He told me all that his addiction has wrought: job loss, homelessness, health problems. Never once did he sound angry, bitter, or depressed.”

Sonya

Sonya

“Sonya lives on the top floor of an abandoned building with her husband of ten years Eric. They left Rhode Island in pursuit of drugs, settling in Hunts Point five years ago. Eric said, ‘This is the only reason me and Sonya are in Hunts Point, because this is literally right now the best heroin in all of New York City.’ Sonya left her husband and family after being turned on to heroin by Eric. ‘I wasn’t addicted to drugs until my 30s. Before then, I was a normal person, meaning I wasn’t a fucking junkie. I lived in Rhode Island and had a family. I was a soccer mom. I always kind of knew I was a heroin addict. I always knew not to fuck with heroin. I always knew it was the drug for me. It just makes you feel good. And when you’re feeling bad, having a magic button is kind of a great thing. Unfortunately the magic button is also a stupid button because it comes with a lot of consequences. I am happier in some ways than I’ve ever been in my life. But I’ve lost so many things. I want to get out of my addiction but in some ways it’s made me grow a lot. And I think I know now how to live more than I ever have.'”

Supreme

Supreme

“Supreme saw me taking pictures and asked to be photographed with his dog Obama (yes, Obama). I asked him why he was giving the camera the finger, he said, ‘Thats for people judging who I am.’ I said, ‘Who are you?’ He said, ‘A doped up junkie.’ I told him I post the pictures online and write a short description. He said, ‘I ain’t mind people knowing what I do or who I am. Its me.’ Supreme and I chatted awhile more; despite the finger he was happy to talk.”

Egypt

Egypt

“Egypt, 38 and homeless, was 14 when her mother, an addict and prostitute, put her out on the streets. She has been working the streets, in the Bronx, addicted to heroin and crack, much of the time since. While telling me her story, she started crying. She was high, having just shot crack. ‘Mix it with lemon juice. If you do it with water you will be fucked up. Abscess, dead.’ She noticed a beat up alley cat wandering. ‘That cat’s how I feel. I really do. I didn’t come out here to fucking cry. See, that cat needs a hug. I get that. He wants somebody to love him. Saying, ‘Don’t touch that,’ is like saying not to touch me.” I apologized for making her cry. She said, ‘I didn’t cry. There’s no time for crying out here. If you cry, you’re a pussy, and you can’t let them do that to you. You can’t let them see you cry. You can’t show your weakness. I’m a cancer. You scrape us off and we come right back. But we’re curable. It’s only as hard as you make it. If you think you can change, if you know you can change, you can. If you set your mind to something, that’s what’s going to happen. You have to want it. You can’t have someone else want it for you.'” Original Images and Descriptions by Chris Arnade.

Take Nine

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Was she foolish? Yes, probably. She came here waiting for the cute guy to appear behind the counter and here he is. Only she’s jacked up on so much caffeine that she can’t count the shots she’s taken on one hand. Surely its her weakness, thats evident. She knows she shouldn’t drink it but every sip is like a surge of such great energy that it lifts her into the air like … Whatever. She just got lost in a song that played in the background. She needs to know what song that was… “Bing Crosby,” mumbles the cute guy when he returned to check. He clearly has no clue who he is. The same can’t be said for her… but it’s been a “Long, Long Time.”

It takes her back.

Arambol Crabs!

A silly crab on the beach of Arambol.

Somehow she is now on the port of Arambol, Goa. Walking with heavy steps on the cool beach to scare away any lingering crabs. She focus’s her gaze on the ground as they pop in and out of the sand. It seems to work so she repositions her head, looking to the sky. Orions belt is shining brighter than she’d ever seen in her life. Right next to it she traces the constellation of Gemini with her fingers— thats her sign. Sighing, she places her hands back to her side, holding her iPhone listening to a mix of Crosy, Fitzgerald and Armstrong. She looks around her; nothing but a vast sea of blackness to her right and glowing spheres marking the vacant huts to her left. The light from the crescent moon sends sparks dancing on the ocean. She smiles. I don’t think I’ve ever been more happier than I am here, alone on this beautiful night. 

She wore a small black dress that was gift given to her the first time she visited Goa. During that stay she had indulged in drugs and sex, more drugs and sex, and endless dancing. Now she came with a different purpose. Traveling with some girls she had met from her school and staying for a week to lay on the beach, eat too much food, watch them shop and talk for hours. They never wanted to smoke up with her but she didn’t really care. They had just left that morning and she moved into a different resort that was far more expensive but far more beautiful. Atman Resort.. When she first saw the place her jaw dropped. Huts built high above the sand, draped in silk sarrees of every colour. She was mystified. She decided to stay one more week before she had to go back home (to Kannur) and start working.

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Outside the hut.

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Inside the hut.

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Porch of the hut.

For months now she had been with the guy she had been invited to room with. It was really all an accident how that relationship happened and it simply could not be ended given all he had done for her and the fact that they were living together. But this didn’t stop her from messaging a guy she had met in high school years before. They talked about everything. She would wait for him to settle into his evening, which was the start of her day, and they would chat for hours. He kept her company. He introduced her to Bing Crosby.

The irony of it all had been that just recently (as we fast-forward to the present), she had had a dream about him. All these months she had completely forgot about him with her head muddled by the disasters that had ensued since she returned. She looked back at everything they had said to each other from the very start. They spoke in dreams, desires and love. They were separated by miles and time. Then she dropped off from communication for a while. Only to pick up again in a scrabble of unclear words that remotely described her life post-hospitalization in India. She was delusional. Yet he had gone along with it. But how could he have known?

She tried to explain to him months later on the phone. He was reserved. Probably in shock.. but pleasant. They talked for a long time, just catching up. Nothing like it was before though. It would probably never be like it was before.

But she could still sit there in the coffee shop, gayly humming the tune to “Long, Long Time.” She mouthed the words as she stared off blindly at the workers behind the bar.

When she was in Arambol by herself for that week, she slept throughout the day to shield from the sun and arose in the evening for drinks, pot and whatever else she could scavenge from the random groups of travelers she found on the beach. One night she set herself down with a few young men from Italy. They enjoyed hearing her stories of Kannur and the parties south of Arambol. They admitted that they preferred the hippy-scene but she tried to assure them of its equally enlightening experience. She began to realize something she had forgotten— judgement.

She had erased all judgement when she landed in India. Never thinking that anyone was better than her or she was better than anyone else. She wandered around the town making friends with everyone she met and never hesitated to think that anyone would only be talking to her because she was a young American girl. Now that she reflects on it, she can see how naive she was. But was it really all that bad? She had been happy not looking so deeply behind everyones motives. It had worked for her at the time. She supposes that this is what might have gotten her into so much trouble. Yet, for some reason she misses those days when she could let her mind drift off and see the world in an elaborate web of technicoloured unity. She reminds herself, this was me in mania.

She never knew she was bipolar until she was diagnosed in India and now that she knows that there is an actual word to describe her abnormal thought process, she feels a little better. Sure, she’s different than a lot of people— although some like to say that ‘everyones a little bipolar’—she at least has an understanding of why. Being bipolar is not some shifting of moods from time to time. Its not to be belittled by anyone who thinks they understand it. They don’t live it, how could they understand it? To her, her disorder was serious. It causes her to come off as something she does not want to portray. It sends her into months of pure joy, verging on insane to spells of deep depression where all hopes are lost and suicide becomes a better answer with each day. She wonders what it would be like to live without fear. Her head is always spinning around such profound ideas that when she withdraws herself to observe her thoughts, all that can rationalize them is her rise into another manic episode… She once sought after that, too. Sometimes she wonders if she is still secretly seeking it even after the fact that she realized it was a bad idea.

She just lets these thoughts go. They can’t govern her life and she can’t be always questioning herself. She tells herself, if I become manic, then I do. If I become depressed, then that’s where I will be. For now, in this moment, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I feel happy. I feel sane. I love myself and my life and I will not let anyone get in the way of this serenity.

She mentions the idea of ‘anyone’ because she saw a pattern. When she is depressed, she tends to push it onto someone. Latch on to them as though without them, she would be nothing. She places utter most importance on their existence in her life and becomes delusional to the fact that they are just another human being—doing their own thing. She is not the center of their universe and they probably (defiantly) don’t want her to be. She has to let go of her possessive thoughts and bring herself back into a reality where it is just her and everything else. I am alone, but I am at peace. I like to be alone. I feel free. I get lost in my thoughts and gaze upon the lake. I wait for the moon as I sit myself under a palm tree. Anywhere I go, there I will be. And everywhere I go, beauty follows me.