I’d first heard about Chris Arnade’s Flickr page a few weeks ago.
His portfolio of original photographs are raw, often untreated, and the subjects are some of New York’s most downtrodden and forsaken – homeless, drug addicted, sex workers – and some inspiring pics of energetic children in the 5 boroughs.
The pics range from sex workers preparing for the night, to kids doing backflips, to poverty stricken families on outdoor mattresses, to drug addicts before, during & after a hit.
Many of the pics have captions/blurbs, describing the person, the location and the context for how Chris was able to gain their trust and gain access to these candid moments with the subjects … the people.
Along with his strong photography, Chris has also taken to writing some thought provoking articles. Chris Arnade happens to be a former Wall Street trader for Citigroup, and his articles underscore much of what we already know about America’s unfair justice system and immoral economic system.
As of 12-27, Chris’ most recent article “Is Atheism an Intellectual Luxury for the Wealthy?” is really worth a read. He argues that atheism is a luxury for those who’ve succeeded in this world, and that we’re all ill-equipped to rob a homeless crack-addicted sex worker of the justice and love promised in their religious faith.
I follow him all the way to the end, but I disagree with his final point. I think that “hope” is beautiful and very important … but the question of “truth” is also important and worth discussing/pursuing, to the degree we can.
Some of Chris’ pics are kinda disturbing, and the blurbs describe former boxers, aspiring models, and people who continue to hope for a better condition. One crack addict, Michael is quoted this way:
“You know those dreams in cartoons, the one where you running and getting no place, that train coming at your back? That’s life out here. Difference is we ain’t running. We walking the track with our ass hanging out, sucking ugly ass dick every day. Give me running any day”
When I look at these pics I’m reminded of the legendary Nina Simone’s description of an artist’s duty:
“To reflect the times … painters, sculptors, poets, musicians … at this crucial time in our lives when everything is so desparate, there’s no choice but to be involved. How can you be an artist and not reflect the times? That, to me, is the definition of an artist.” -Nina Simone
They also remind me about the power of context. Often times, pictures like these are used to demonize and poke fun at people. There’s a common practice on social networks where pictures are taken of unsuspecting people (often poor people, on public transportation or in Walmart) to post online and ridicule their clothing/hygiene/general appearance.
Chris’ photos seek to humanize.
I can rock with that.
Check all the pics on Chris Arnade’s Flickr.