Faces of Addiction Photography Series

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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.
 
faces of addiction
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.”
 
faces of addiction
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.”
 
faces of addiction
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.
 
faces of addiction
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.
 
faces of addiction
‘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.’
 
faces of addiction
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.

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  • Comments
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  1. osiri

    Photography making a difference! I didn’t even see what you saaid about it being positive, all I see here is people like you and I, struggling to be normal, just like everybody else. Thank you

    • Reply
  2. Gretchen

    Beautiful work.

    • Reply
  3. Liza

    So touching. Great work!

    • Reply
  4. Rob.C

    When I see work like this it not only makes me sad, they make me wonder about each persons entire life up to now. What if anything happened in their childhood to lead them down this path to such self destruction. In a way I understand as I was an addict and homeless at age 20. Now at age 40 I look at these photos and it touches me deeply.
    I only hope they can recover. Amazing work

    • Reply
  5. Ferdy

    Great photo work, Must be hard amazing work too.

    • Reply
  6. Jeph's mom

    One face of addiction is my son. God bless those who see him as a person. Just know that addiction is constant pain from many Angles
    Our love for him is unconditional. His love for himself is intermittent

    • Reply
  7. Donna DiStefano

    These pictures tell more than I would be able to tell in 100s words about addiction. The struggle with addiction may lead individuals to similar places and experiences. However, the individuals I’ve worked with are not “bad people” and come from different backgrounds and lifestyles. Thank you for showing these faces and spreading awareness.

    • Reply
  8. Linda Gleitz (@LindaGleitzArt)

    People find comfort where they can. Judgement is useless…unconditional love is necessary…giving love is the most fulfilling pastime and can heal…especially the person giving it. Mucho love to all…and may you find strength and comfort in healthy places…

    • Reply
  9. Ineta

    Eyes never lie. I see vulnerability and pain in those eyes. Thank you for taking time in showing that homeless are people, too. They are just lost souls that often cannot find their way out.

    • Reply
  10. Jackson West

    This is visually stunning and so very touching. Thank you.

    • Reply
  11. Oliver Joy

    Outstanding street photos. Would love to see more.
    They are sad, very sad, but show the desperation of addiction
    Very well. Again, outstanding!

    • Reply
  12. john penman

    deep………inspirational

    • Reply
  13. Richard Ambrose

    Amazing, important work you’ve got here. Keep promoting this. It needs to be seen. SO many people see the homeless as losers, when in fact they are usually just lost.

    • Reply

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