Don’t Quit Your Day Job? No Problem.

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As a child Sunshine (now 37) fell from the roof of her Bronx home and had an extended stay in the hospital. Feeling dependent on drugs, she started using heroin at fourteen. At seventeen she came to Hunts Point “to taste the heroin, cause I heard it was the best,” and has been here ever since. She has been “in and out of the rehab, in and out of the programs, on and off methadone, all trying to kill this addiction, to get to the other side.”


When I asked about the effects of her addiction she said: “I have lost everything. I have lost my family, lost my two children, and lost my home. I don’t wish this on anybody.”


She has been clean for two years now, on methadone. “I feel the best I ever have.” She often thinks about how many of her friends died from their addiction. “I lost fifteen friends to Hunts Point and heroin. We lost Madonna, we lost Roxanne, we lost Russia, we lost John and Billy. We lost so many addicts. This shit is real.”


When I asked her dream she said: “I want to get kids here into theater and dance. There are so many troubled teens here. They are like I was. I want to give them something positive to do rather than drugs.”

101 Responses to Don’t Quit Your Day Job? No Problem.

  1. Brian Bulemore March 14, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    Thanks for posting these, Chase. As an addiction counselor/therapist myself (day job for 12 years) and a street photographer at heart, I’ve had similar encounters…and they are both rewarding and distrubing…this photographer deserves great praise for being willing to approach, connect with, and document this suffering and validating the humanity that is ALWAYS there…no matter how tragic and terrible the circumstances. Wow…I love the way he asks THEM how they want to be described…

  2. brandon shane warren March 14, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    I love raw street photography at its core – Amazing stuff, although I am terrible at street photography and I find it most inspiring to the more controlled stuff I do. thanks for the links!

  3. Leo March 14, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    Funny, I remember reading this : “1. Declare yourself a photographer. That’s what you ARE in life. You’re not a student, not a finance-guy-slash-part-time-photographer, not a part time anything.”


    • Tim March 14, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

      Ya I remember reading the same thing. So what are you trying to say Chase?

      • Chase March 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

        hmmm. not sure about the confusion on this point. I thought i was being clear that…

        a. if you want to be a PROFESSIONAL photographer, then you’d best call yourself a photographer and go for it; and

        b. if you want to be a photographer with a day job, then totally cool – you can stlll have tons of impact like Chris here…

    • marc March 14, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      Maybe he’s a finance guy AND a photographer. DUH! Why does money have to be the validation of photographers?

  4. roman a March 14, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    powerful series. made me think twice about complaining about my “problems.” overall, I don’t think I’d have the balls to cover something so tragic. maybe one day.

  5. Loreen March 14, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Touching. Heartbreaking. Beautiful. Thanks for posting this.

  6. Chris Arnade March 14, 2012 at 12:25 pm #


    A few things. My name is misspelled, its Chris Arnade.

    In addition I can be followed on Twitter @Chris_Arnade

    Thanks again for highlight.

    • Chase March 14, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

      awesome Chris – corrected the typo and linked to your twitter handle!

      great work – keep it up

    • marc March 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

      really incredible stuff, dude!

  7. Lori Rowles March 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    Seriously, tthe first thing that enters my mind with each story is “Fu*%”. Powerful and tragic. Makes me flash back to when I was living on Capital Hill in Seattle. How can I have so much and these souls so little? It’s not right….
    Thanks for sharing and reminding me of how lucky I am.

  8. Dustin March 14, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    WOW… Lets just hope the people in the photos aren’t too pissed off that they’re now being outted as prostitutes and maybe also hope that the NYPD doesn’t decide to start monitoring these people because of it…

    Good thing this banker doesn’t need to change his name and use an Alias…

  9. Tony Bayliss March 14, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Great images, you can really see the connection you’ve made with the subjects.

  10. Calvin March 14, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    Yep, I remember becoming homeless after trying to do photography full time straight out of college…. Good times. You’re right, don’t quit your day jobs.

  11. John March 14, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    Strong images in support of an equally powerful story for each of these people. Unfortunately, there is no easy fix for these people in difficult situations.

  12. Jonathan Davis March 14, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    I actively follow Chris on flickr and cannot wait for his next post. I came across it first from one of the blogs that I read. I am astounded at the simplicity of the photos and the stories behind them. It really goes to show that people can do great things with their photography.

  13. Mário Pires March 14, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    I have made photo projects ever since i started to get the basic knowledge right, it’s a question of passion, drive and ressources management.

    This current project of mine is made with the good will of everybody that accepted being photographed by me in very simple sessions:

  14. Mário Pires March 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Forgot to tell that i have a “day job” too.

  15. Paul Treacy March 14, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    “I don’t verify, just listen.” – That’s very good. I like that.

  16. Michael D'Avignon March 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    Honest and powerful images. Great work Chris Arnade! Thanks for sharing Chase.

  17. Jay Cordary March 14, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    Just wanted to thank Chris, what great glimpses of dignity, humanity and humility he has afforded us with his eyes and ears.

  18. Matthew T Rader March 14, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    Chase this was excellent, thanks for sharing this, I found the photos and the stories along with them very touching and moving. It so sad to me how so many view people like the ones featured above and useless and meaningless, Chris’ photography and stories really impacted me on a very human level.

  19. Terrence March 14, 2012 at 7:07 pm #


  20. Steve Deschenes March 14, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    Chase thank you for post here!
    I have an exhibition on homelessness that will begin on March 21 of a man whom I followed for six months and brought me a lot. The photograph now will allow me to educate others, especially young because my photos are in a permanent exhibition inside a school teenager for a year!

    Hats off to Chris Arnade for his work but also listening BRAVO

    Thank you Chase, Steve

  21. Martins Kikulis March 14, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    Great stories told.. Loving this.

  22. John Barclay March 14, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    Very powerful images and stories. I could not stop looking at each one and that rarely happens. Typically I stop after 10-15 images and move onto something else. This drew me in. Great work Chris.

  23. Dave March 14, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

    Pretty great shots. Reminds me of Tony Fouhse’s stuff.

  24. Masahiko F March 15, 2012 at 3:38 am #

    Thank you. Such an interesting series and so different than many of the photos one sees of the homeless or others on the street. Real stories to go along with nice photos, not just well composed photos of some nameless homeless person with no other context.

  25. matt blassey March 15, 2012 at 6:30 am #

    his series is the most powerful inadvertent anti-drug message i’ve ever seen

  26. Arne March 15, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    Thanks for this post. I did not quit my day job either, but i must say photography for me is more than a hobby – this is my passion

  27. john hildebrand March 15, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    do you need to get a model release when doing these kinda photos

    • Tony Fouhse March 15, 2012 at 11:13 am #

      I always get releases from everyone I shoot. even the drug addicts I collaborated with while shooting USER. For me it’s just a part of the process.

      • Chris Arnade March 15, 2012 at 11:30 am #

        I do not get a written release form. I tell everyone explicitly what my project is, tell them I will be posting their pictures, and then go back and show them what I have written. If they object I will remove the picture. If I feel they are to high or drugged out to understand, I go back to find them when they are cogent. Or I do not post

        All the proceeds from my pictures goes to Hunts Point Alliance for Children. I do not sell the pictures for personal gain.

  28. Moritz March 15, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    thanks for sharing those and great work chris.
    think its the story behind the pictures/ people that make the image. on first sight they all look like ordinarry people but its the story that makes them different.

    find it great that you as well write about other photographers and give them a chance to be seen by your viewers. see if i am lucky enough one day to be one of those ;)


  29. Matea Michelangeli March 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    So powerful!
    The stories and photographs are made with dignity and respect, GREAT JOB!

  30. chat avrupa March 18, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    thanks for sharing those and great work chris.
    think its the story behind the pictures/ people that make the image. on first sight they all look like ordinarry people but its the story that makes them different

  31. happy men March 18, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    thanks for sharing those and great work chris.
    think its the story behind the pictures/ people that make

  32. doğal bitkiler March 18, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    always get releases from everyone I shoot. even the drug addicts I collaborated with while shooting USER. For me it’s just a part of the process

  33. Adam March 19, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    Chase, just wanted to say great work on this series… it spoke personally to me… Thanks and i enjoy following you on the various media outlets…

  34. adrian March 23, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    I enjoy the captions more than the photographs. That is the most difficult part about using photography as a medium to tell a story. Without the caption the photos themselves do not say much to me…

    I really enjoy the passion of this photographer.

  35. Mark April 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    I like where his heart is, but the work is amateurish.

  36. Mark April 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    It just doesn’t add to any sort of discussion. Very one plane. I mean I don’t know. Perhaps photography is not supposed to answer any questions. And stylistically, well, there is no style… It’s just one horse pony trick. All his photos in all his work are exactly the same.

  37. Garrett July 4, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Amazing! :-|

  38. Anonymous August 30, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Ooh pics of street people how fucking original

  39. JC Ruiz August 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Fantastic series of photos of people in such a troubled spot. Been around Hunt’s Point and remember seeing people similar to these out on the streets. Glad these people were able to open up and speak with the photographer so he could share their story.

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  44. For Reals March 25, 2014 at 8:00 am #

    Please stop using “shiznit.” You are not a cheezy 90’s rapper…

  45. Tim Roper March 25, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    He’s not still a banker. He quit to pursue the “hobby” of wanting to live a more real and fulfilling life.

    The intro to an NPR piece on him: “Disillusioned by corporate greed and his life as a Wall Street financier, Chris Arnade quit his job and devoted his time to photographing drug….”

  46. Selena March 25, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    The pain and the poetry. Thanks for connecting me to this work. Addiction is a real sad story and I think Chris is documenting it in a very honest way.

    p.s I don’t give a shiznit about what you said when how you said what, and I don’t really care that this guy is a or was a banker.
    the work speaks for itself.

  47. Jim March 25, 2014 at 8:55 am #

    Amazing depth of work that evokes both a visual and mental feeling. Well done. J

  48. Fenne March 25, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    Thanks for sharing these very strong photographs and their stories.

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