I met Nina one early spring evening in 2007. She was standing on the corner by herself, wearing tight jeans and a puffy black fur jacket. I introduced myself to her and began photographing her that evening. Over the next several months, I spent many days and nights with Nina, a street-based sex worker in the desolate, industrial neighborhood of Hunts Point in the South Bronx. I photographed her in her home and in the streets where she works. During this time I met other women working in the streets of Hunts Point, including Babygirl and Sonya. I saw how these women form a community, often taking the place of estranged family. I saw how isolated they are from everything outside this small circle and how often they are completely alone, walking the streets day after day and night after night. As I continued to work with these women, it became clear to me how vulnerable they are to abuse and how few resources are available to them. Almost all of the women I met working in the streets of the South Bronx have been in jail numerous times and face problems of drug dependency, health issues, homelessness, and relentless harrasment by law enforcement.
When I began making photographs in Hunts Point I wanted to make pictures that countered negative stereotypes and helped the viewer relate to the people in the pictures. I wanted people to see the women in the photos as the complex human beings they are and not as objects of pity or contempt. I struggled with the project, in part because what I found in Hunts Point was a tremendous amount of despair, anger and pain and not very much joy or hope. I photographed what the women showed me of their lives and I tried to do so in a way that neither dramatized nor romanticized what was happening.
It was very important for me to share the work I was doing with the women I photographed so I frequently brought prints for them. I was surprised that they often really liked the pictures and would frame them or make collages of them and put them up on the wall. Their responses to the photos made me feel that I was portraying them in a way they were comfortable with; that they felt I was showing them as they are.