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The Wealthy 'Make Mistakes', the Poor Go to Jail

I left my Wall Street trader job and began photographing drug addicts in NYC. These two worlds have entirely different rules.

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No, Mr one-glove did not break any laws. Not explicitly, although in 2008, he helped to bankrupt a company that helped to almost bankrupt the global economy. Rather, he spent his adult life moving numbers around on spreadsheets and betting on other numbers. Over his entire career, he has probably lost more money than he made, with the hole from 2008 swallowing any prior profits. For that he has been very richly rewarded. Tens of millions of dollars rewarded.

Takeesha has broken many laws, none open for interpretation. You use drugs (well, not prescription drugs), you go to jail. You sell your body for sex, you go to jail. You can paint a narrative where young Takeesha shakes off her rape at 11, shakes off being sold on the streets at 13, and rallies. She finds the right foster family, takes advantage of the social services offered, and graduates from high school or at least gets her GED equivalent, then goes to college and moves well beyond her past.

Maybe she even ends up in banking, with her juvenile record forgiven. You can paint that story, but it's a fairy tale.

Mr one-glove would probably not approve of Takeesha. He felt everyone makes his own path in life, that raising his taxes to help the poor was encouraging a lifetime of sloth. To him,  poverty was because of a lack of trying, a lack of working as hard as he had. Many successful professionals, who forget their benign youth, share that attitude.

Poverty and addiction have a thousand mothers, none of them sloth. Surviving the streets and hustling for the next fix is some of the hardest work around. Takeesha would probably say about Mr one-glove what another addict said with admiration, when hearing about my Wall Street life: "You made tricky money in a tricky world."

Mr one-glove eventually left his company. He is still working somewhere in finance, putting together another portfolio of mortgages using borrowed money.

Takeesha is still out on the streets, charging $50 for men to have sex with her. Or maybe she is in jail. I have to check weekly to see which it is.

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