Forgotten Faces: Nathaniel Whiteside [PHOTOS]
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[Photo: Adam Goyette]“Forgotten Faces” is a photo essay series from New York City based photographer Adam Goyette that uncovers stories about the people you see on the streets of New York. Most of the time, pedestrians just pass by without giving a second thought. However, these faces have names and stories, and these are just a few.
If you happened to be walking around 2nd Avenue and E. 6th Street this past Saturday you might have thought some sort of celebrity photo op was afoot, or that HBO was perhaps filming a new special. There was no celebrity there or upcoming HBO special, though. Just Nathaniel Whiteside yelling and waving at the passersby … as I photographed him. Nathaniel has been out on the streets for 2 years, but still maintains an upbeat outlook, telling me that he “just feels lucky to be alive.”
BOWERY BOOGIE: What is your name and how old are you?
Nathaniel Whiteside: My name is Nathaniel Whiteside and I am 51 years old. Most of the people I knew and grew up with are dead because of drugs or AIDS, so I just feel lucky to be alive. You see this here around my neck? This defibrillator thing is what keeps me alive. They found me sprawled out on the streets almost dead in February. I had 4 different clots going to my heart from eating too much greasy Chinese food. I woke up in the hospital and there were doctors all around me. Then the next thing I remember was waking up and my sister and my mom were in the room. They showed me a picture and I said, why are you showing me a picture of a dead guy? They told me it was me. I couldn’t believe it, man. That was just back on February 15. They released me on February 19, and my legs were so swollen, they were triple the size they are now.
BB: Where do you spend most of your day?
NW: I’m usually right here in this same spot most of the day. I come out around 2 in the afternoon and stay out as long as I can before I get tired, which is about 11. At nights I sleep in the subway. You wouldn’t believe the kind of stuff I have seen and heard down there. People calling me nigger, coon, trash, telling me I should just start selling drugs or that I would be better off dead. These are some of my own people too, man. The police aren’t that bad, though. They came pulling up here last week and I thought they was going to arrest me, so I started getting out my ID. Two young looking dudes with tattoos and shades like a couple of gangsters. They asked me if I had eaten yet that day. I told them yes. Then they asked me what I like to drink. I told them Coke. Two minutes later they came out of the store with a giant coke for me. They were from Brooklyn, so they was alright.
BB: What’s your plan for tomorrow?
NW: I’m probably going to be right here. These 3 nice ladies from the church, 2 black and one little white one, hooked me up with this social worker and they are going to help get me a place to stay on July 15.
BB: What brought you to New York?
NW: I grew up in New York. Born and raised in Harlem. I have been out here on the streets for 2 years now.