Chris Arnade Photography

“I am more than just a naked prostitute who smokes crack”

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I generally shy away from posting nude pictures. I don’t want to fall into clichés and stereotypes. Many women do ask me to take them.

When I do take them I rarely post them.

That is unfair of me.  By holding the pictures back I am inserting my own bias into the narrative.

The years of prostitution and addiction, all of it builds. A coarseness and openness develops, out of necessity. “You want to see my ass?  Well here. Here it is. Now give me that Jackson and get the hell out of here. Getting your dick sucked gonna cost you a whole lot more. You better have heavy pockets.”

So here is the story of Carmela, with the nude pictures. The ones she wanted me to take, the ones she asked me to post.

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When I first met Carmela she was staying in a windowless room in an abandoned apartment. She was sleeping with Takeesha, both of them nude. They were wrapped together kissing between hits of crack.

Carmela had just finished working. “I went 24 hours straight, sucked a bunch of dicks, made a bunch of money. Now I am going to relax.”

Carmela ran away from foster care at twelve, “I was in five different homes, or maybe seven. I got tired of being molested. It started when I was six. I hear people talk about being abused by their family. Well they are lucky. I got abused by six different families.“

After running away she started doing drugs: Heroin, angel dust, and crack.

“When did I start prostituting? I always have. I mean I always thought you had to give up your body for food or to find a place to sleep. I never knew it had a fancy name like prostitution till I was like 16. I just knew it as the way a girl lived on the streets.”

“Men come here. They buy me drugs. I do as much as I can. Heroin ‘cause I like to forget and crack to wake me up.”

“I was clean for about two years. I went looking for my birth parents. My mom died from drugs when I would of been ten. My dad, nobody knows who that man was.”

She asked me to take pictures of her, standing on the bed, exposing herself.  I declined, but she insisted. “Ain’t got no shame. This is me. This is what I sell.”

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When I visited her next she asked to see the prior pictures of her. She smiled at them. “Damn, you know how to use that thing.” 

She spoke while flipping through the photos.

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“I am more than just a naked prostitute who smokes crack. I may seem comfortable being that but I am not.”

“I hate what I do. I feel guilty and embarrassed by being out here hustling. I get clean and somehow I keep coming back. It’s the only thing I know, the only place I have power.”

“Just today I was walking down the street. This nine-year old boy kicking a ball started following me. I turned and he turned. He was following me because I was for sale. I felt awful. Would I want my boy following a prostitute around?”

"Then two hour later I was crossing streets with food from the bodega. These two elderly women were watching me. One said to the other, ‘She ought to be ashamed of herself.’ I was.”

“You know what I have always wanted to be? A square. That kid who did everything right and had parents who hugged them and told them how much they loved them.”

“Love? There is no love out here. People only want what they can get from you then they throw you away. I stopped trying to find love.”

“Here is a poem I wrote. Will you please post it?”

Don’t worry.

Don’t worry if you hear me cry,

I am just letting out the frustration inside.

Don’t worry if you hear me yell, “Go to hell”

I am just tired of him saying you better not tell.

Don’t worry if I seem tired and weak,

Its just my soles are worn from hustling in these streets.

Don’t worry about me,

Because I am a survivor,

I’ll always eat.

Look at full series on addiction here: Faces of Addiction

My Op-Ed on what I have learned from last three years: The wealthy make mistakes, the poor go to jail

Follow on Facebook: Chris Arnade Photography


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    Don’t worry. Don’t worry if you hear me cry, I am just letting out the frustration inside. Don’t worry if you hear me...
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