Unless we’re one of them, many of us learn the habit of looking away from the down-and-out when we’re going about our daily lives. Truly seeing the homeless, the mentally ill, the drug-addicted, and others in crisis (not overlapping populations, but intersecting ones) potentially forces us to think about our role in a society that has largely abandoned them.
Meanwhile, art photography of these populations tends to force us to look, to see just how much pain and suffering there is to see on the streets.
In light of this — not looking vs. looking to see the pain — I found the photography of Chris Arnade to be a breath of fresh air. Featured at Mother Jones, his portraits of “drug abuse, sex work, and homelessness in the Bronx” are humanizing. Many of them show smiling faces, dignity, pride, and peace. I reproduce a few of them here, but I recommend going to see the full Flickr set.