|Charlie- Hunts Point, The Bronx; Photo: Chris Arnade|
The first time I looked at Chris Arnade's work, my photo snobbery dismissed it offhand: photos can't stand on their own two feet, too much like snapshots, not "artistic" enough. And then perusing The NY Times article, I also felt perhaps exploitative to boot- well to do white guy banker/wanker getting off photographing the usual down and out stereotypes of brown and black people... please!
Recently, I came upon his work again, and actually made the time to look into what he does, how he does it, and how long he's been doing it- and one can only be impressed by the commitment and dedication he has expended on his "hobby," a hobby that has become an active conduit into other people's lives and an instrument for understanding a side of life most will happily deny, condemn and ignore all in a second's passing.
Scott Sothern also empathized and commiserated with addicts and prostitutes, but the ol' rascal also went along for the ride (quite literally). Arnade's modus operandi more closely approaches Tony Foushe's, who actually collaborated with one of his subjects in the making of the book Live Through This. To be fair, Arnade's work must be seen in its more comprehensive story telling and humanist context, where the subject's background, life story and plight take center stage. And that is Arnade's saving grace, a body of work that cannot be denied when seen and appreciated in context, photographically and otherwise.