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21st Dec 2012

Life Changes: One Wall Street Guy Trades In The Day Job And Does This Instead

Not the most conventional option, but he feels like he's helping people...

It was a gamble, a career change many wouldn’t have made…

Four years ago, a Wall Street trader called Chris Arnade walked into a Bronx neighbourhood, started taking photographs and decided there and then he needed a life change.

He returned a few times and began writing about the images he was snapping. He captured the cycle of abuse, drugs, and sex that kept people chained to the neighbourhood.

His work focuses on the weapons carried by prostitutes, oral sex, the abuse the girls receive from their pimps. He shocked his Wall Street colleagues with the images he shot.

At the start of the year the New York Times featured his work. He has now quit his high-flying bank job and now spends five days a week in the Bronx community.

Arnade says his subjects are his main priority…

“I think what frustrated me most about the Times article was that it made it look like this is a series on prostitution,” Arnade said, “when it’s in fact a series on addiction. But I would say now it’s even more a story about abuse, mostly sexual abuse.

“I’m following a few subjects much more deeply, into the hospitals, into the jails, the prisons, the court system, as well as just getting more and more access to people, in terms of going into their houses, getting more about their back stories.

“Most people no longer think I’m an undercover cop.”

He has been called ‘exploitive’: a privileged white man preying on poor people, mostly women.

He doesn’t hesitate to pay a prostitute to take her picture, or to hand bit of casha to an addict in withdrawal.

For Arnade, though, what matters is how his subjects feel.