HUNTS POINT, NEW YORK CITY, UNITED STATES
MAY 16, 2015
PHOTO BY CHRIS ARNADE
“Got to get $300 by tomorrow,” is the Flickr caption of this photo of a South Bronx sex worker. It is part of a long-term photo project depicting drug addicts, the mentally ill and sex workers by former Wall Street financial worker, Chris Arnade. Mr. Arnade’s Flickr page, “Faces of Addiction,” has over 1.3 million views.
Mr. Arnade routinely pays his subjects, violating one of the most closely held tenets of documentary photography. Paying a subject, particularly one with drug addiction issues, destroys the honest exchange of information with a willing participant in a story. “We use each other. I use them for photos, and they use me. Sometimes for $10 or a ride, and to tell their story,” says Mr. Arnade.
A key guideline of the National Press Photographers Association reads: “Treat all subjects with respect and dignity. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects.”
Mr. Arnade's photos of sex workers, some addicted to drugs, some with mental health issues and/or severely emotionally abused, exposing their breasts or naked bodies, clearly breaches this standard. That he chooses to publish these photos on Flickr, an image hosting website, to be viewed by strangers around the world, is a violation of both ethics and common decency.
The Hunts Point area of the South Bronx, where Mr. Arnade photographs, has been the focus of voyeuristic stories about drugs and prostitution for decades, though wealthy, largely Caucasian parts of NYC have similar rates of drug use and prostitution, often behind closed doors.
CHRIS ARNADE’S RESPONSE TO THE INCLUSION OF THIS PHOTO IN ALTERED IMAGES:
“I have no problem helping those I photograph. Sometimes that means money, sometimes that means driving them to Detox, sometimes that means driving them to buy drugs, and sometimes driving them across country to spend Christmas with their mother. I have done all those things and I will continue to do them. I have been doing this project for four years. Many of those I photograph are now my friends. To NOT help them, to come in, take a picture, and run away to grab awards, that to me is wrong, regardless of so and so guidelines.
Journalist often specialize in immediate gratification, getting a story to send off to a paper to get views. Then they move on to the next story, and don’t help those they work with. I try my best not to do that.”
Image copyright Chris Arnade