Faces Of Addiction

Photographer Chris Arnade has been following the stories of addicts in Hunts Point neighborhood, the poorest in all of New York City, for several years. Of this compelling documentary project, he says,

 "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."

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."

Clarence: Hunts Point, Bronx 

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 fourty 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.

Erik: Hunts Point, Bronx
“I have already destroyed myself. I can’t walk by a corner with a pocket of money and not buy dope.” – Erik

Michael: Hunts Point, Bronx 
“I am sick of this life. Sick of jamming needles into myself, sick of not having a home, sick of all my money going to dope, sick of waking up and needing drugs. I just want a normal life. I want to have a home and watch movies.” Michael is headed to detox. Without Medicaid he needs a letter from a homeless shelter. Once he gets that he will check himself into Bayley Seton in Staten Island. It will be the forth time in his life he has gone to detox, the first time since he relapsed in 2010.

Joette: Hunts Point, Bronx 
"At the beginning, when you first start shooting up, you lie to yourself, but over time you can't. Would I like to change? Sure, but I am afraid its part of who I am." -- Joette

Roland: Hunts Point, Bronx

J Lo: Hunts Point, Bronx "I'm like a walking corpse. I just want it to end already. I don't have dreams no more." -- J Lo

Sonya: Hunts Point, Bronx "I'm going to die out here." -- Sonya Hunts Point, Bronx 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 and Eric: Hunts Point, Bronx

Cynthia: Hunts Point, Bronx
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.

Manny Quiles: Hunts Point, Bronx
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.

Jackie: Hunts Point, Bronx

You can follow Chris Arnade's ongoing work on Facebook.

More on Addiction: Faces of Addiction

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