Chris Arnade, Photographer Of Urban Life, On What He Learned After 20 Years On Wall Street

Brooklyn Heights resident/photographer Chris Arnade posted a compelling guest blog at Scientific American a couple of weeks ago that’s worth sharing here.

Arnade, a former Wall Streeter, now spends his time chronicling the lives of prostitutes, addicts and others living the shadows of New York City. His photographs tell their stories, which would otherwise go unheard and unseen. He addresses this in the piece’s postscript:

Scientific American: In January of this year one of my subjects, Millie, passed away. Her unclaimed body was tagged #97 (the 97th death in the Bronx during 2013) and shipped from Lincoln Hospital to the New York Medical Examiner’s office. After two months she was buried in a trench on Hart Island by the department of Correction.

She and the close to 900,000 others buried on Hart Island have no tombstones or a place for relatives to remember or lay flowers. Millie’s death notice was the gossip on the streets. Her life story, growing up in Puerto Rico the daughter of addicts, of twenty years of prostitution, homelessness, and drug abuse will not register beyond a close circle of friends.

I am thankful and fortunate that over the last two years I got to know her as Yafna Garcia, not just the 97th death in the Bronx of 2013.

Created with flickr slideshow.

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  • Topham Beauclerk


    You write that you’re “thankful and fortunate” to have Yafna Garcia. Wherein lies your good fortune in having known her?

  • Topham Beauclerk

    “thankful and fortunate” to have known Yafna…

  • MonroeOrange

    Im sure as a wall streeter he already knew many ‘prostitutes and addicts’….and for the other living in ‘the shadows of NYC’, they were probably well off before wall street and the banks bankrupted our society…but its great he has enough money to now walk around and take pictures…maybe he should be volunteering all that extra time helping people, not taking pictures of it for his own benefit

  • ltap917

    What a ridiculous statement. When are people going to stop bashing Wall Street. When Lehman Brothers went under, the charities they supported went under too. Who gives to charities? Not the poor, I can tell you that. If you can afford to live in Brooklyn Heights MonroeOrange, you are doing well.
    And yes, I am sure that Arnade’s time on Wall Street might very well have given him enough money so that he could become a photographer. So what!

  • PB

    Chris’photos are a great influence on my own work as a photographer, and the way in which he portrays life on the streets humanizes the demonized. They celebrate not the life choices of his subjects, but rather their lives on this earth. Thank you, Chris.

  • MonroeOrange

    spoken like a true wall streeter or bank executive…

  • mucow

    If you like Chris’ photos, I highly recommend checking out the portraits Tom Stone has been taking in San Francisco:

    I stumbled on these a few years back, and they’re really amazing. Some of the stories are incredibly powerful.

    As an aside — I’m a big fan of Chris’ work, and was excited to read the discussion here, since I didn’t know he lived in the neighborhood. I guess grumpy ad-hominem attacks are much easier than actual discussion, huh? Guess it’s the heatwave.