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Why Chris Arnade Quit His High-Paying Wall Street Job to Photograph Extreme Poverty and Addiction

Daily Ticker

Chris Arnade was a trader on Wall Street for 20 years. He had a secure spot on a foreign exchange desk at one of the biggest financial institutions in the world. Yet after two decades on Wall Street he quit his job and began spending much of his time in an area of the South Bronx where the average household income is just $16,000 per year.

Related: Income Inequality Is the Enemy of Economic Growth: Robert Reich

“I effectually became disillusioned with Wall Street following the financial crisis,” says Arnade. “As a way to try to find something to fill in the gap I started walking around New York with my camera talking to [and photographing] people.”

His photography led him to Hunts Point, one of the poorest and most violent neighborhoods in New York.

“I started really talking to the addicts and the prostitutes there and I felt like their story needed to be heard, and I’ve focused my last three years on doing just that," he tells The Daily Ticker's Lauren Lyster.

Related: Income Stats Suggest American Dream Is Dead

Arnade posts photos of the people he meets in Hunts Point (an area that is often considered a “red light” district) on his Tumblr and Flickr pages along with their stories.

So what has he learned by frequenting these two entirely separate worlds?

“The poor go to jail and the rich make mistakes,” says Arnade. He gives the example of Takeesha, a prostitute and drug addict.

Related: Top 1% Getting 95% of Income Gains: Is Washington Responsible?

“I’ve been close with [Takeesha] now for three years," he says. "She has been in jail off and on about 15 times. The gentleman who I worked with who lost about $1.5 billion never got fired, got paid his $400,000 in salary and now runs a hedge fund somewhere.”


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