Things That Will Break Your Heart: Chris Arnade’s Faces of Addiction

10 Feb
Prince spends his time salvaging scrap metal.

Prince spends his time salvaging scrap metal to get money for heroin.

The other day I stumbled upon a Jezebel article detailing an ongoing photo essay by Chris Arnade, called “Faces of Addiction”.  Viewing this photo essay should be mandatory for everyone, especially spoiled millenials who think that their lives are terrible. Looking through this photo series made me realize how incredibly lucky I am to have lived my life. Really, I have nothing to whine about at all. I’ve been blessed with so many amazing things: a solid mind, a world-class education, writing ability, attractive looks, designer clothes, trips, meals at nice restaurants, etc. I am blessed in every aspect of my life.  Unfortunately, as the internet and various social media networks prove, whining about anything and everything is the new marker of a narcissistic and selfish society.

Here are some examples of things that people often believe are real problems, when in fact, they are not:

“I cracked the glass on my iPhone!”

“Why is Starbucks out of bacon breakfast sandwiches this morning?”

“OMG! Why is the N train out of service on a Saturday night? Now I’ll never make it to that beer garden at a decent hour!”

“Dave Matthews isn’t coming to my city this year! WTF!”

People, these are not problems. After reading through a bit of “Faces of Addiction,” you will learn what actual problems are.  “Faces of Addiction” chronicles the lives of drug addicts and prostitutes in Hunts Point, Bronx.  For those of you who are not familiar with New York City, Hunts Point is the poorest neighborhood in all of New York City. Heroin plagues the neighborhood, ripping a cruel path of utter destruction in its streets.

Many of Mr. Arnade’s subjects have been addicted to heroin for years, if not decades.  Their faces show an indescribable sadness, eyes peering from behind weathered masks of who they were.  Sonya, who told her story to Arnade, gave up her family and stable life in Rhode Island to move to Hunts Point with a man who introduced her to heroin. Her description of what her life is like now is chillingly paradoxical: “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.” Prince is a young man who suffered sexual abuse as a child. He is the oldest of seventeen children, and he spends much of his time scrounging the streets of Hunts Point for scrap metal, using what little money he gets to buy heroin. Arnade noted how positive Prince was, in spite of the life he leads.  Prince graduated high school and states that he hopes to finish college as well. Prince’s photo shows a young man dragging an air conditioner behind him, the composition of the photo offset by the bright colors of a graffitied wall.

Sonya, brought to the edge of addiction by a man named Erik.

Sonya, brought to the edge of addiction by a man named Erik.

Perhaps the most gut-wrenching stories (for me, at least) are those of women who were sexually abused from a very young age and thrust into a life of pain, addiction, and sex work through no fault of their own.  Egpyt’s story especially affected me. Raped by her own father since the age of three, Egypt tells Mr. Arnade that the only man who never treated her badly was God.  For someone who’s been treated so badly her entire life to still have some semblance of faith is simply amazing to me.

Egypt, a longtime victim of men.

Egypt, a longtime victim of men.

Arnade’s photo essay is a must-read for anyone who’s ever passed by a junkie or prostitute in the streets of New York, or any large city for that matter, and wondered what brought them to that moment in their lives.  We tend to go through life glibly, not realizing just how great many of us have it.  Chris Arnade’s message is a much-needed revelation in such selfish times.  If you can look through these photos without wincing, or almost shedding tears, then your heart simply needs some work.

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2 Responses to “Things That Will Break Your Heart: Chris Arnade’s Faces of Addiction

  1. Greg Shaw February 10, 2013 at 9:57 PM #

    I’m with you. I can’t stand going to Downtown LA and see well off people come out of their high rises and walk past people in need. Paying no mind to them—as if they don’t exist… As if they can’t see them through their peripherals.

    I heard an interesting debate on a similar subject on http://www.kleanradio.com

  2. Ali June 9, 2013 at 1:57 PM #

    Chris, you are such a brave person who opened reality and are real life problem. Often times people complain minor things.

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