If you are walking through the East Village, you may find a group of street wanderers that seem to stick out from the rest. Those with tattoos and spikes, piercings and Dr. Martens, torn jeans and fading neon hair. These, photographer Steven Hirsch says, are the Crustypunks.
"Crustypunks are a tribe of tattooed nomads found in Tompkins Square Park," he writes on his website. The term describes a sort of street punk or squatter, a roaming subculture heavy on the 'crust' (as in what results from not bathing). "I always found them visually fascinating," Hirsch tells HuffPost, "I globe-trotted extensively when I was in my twenties and have a certain affinity for their traveling ways."
Toward that end, Hirsch started a project to capture candid portraits, letting them tell their stories. Some are down on their luck, living from fix to fix on the sidewalk, but in fact most say they have chosen the liberty of the wandering life over more sedentary options. What one subject, T-bird, describes as "living the free life." "I have no desire to do anything ever," he continued. "I'm completely content doing nothing and living off the excess of other people."
"I've tried to settle down," says Kayla, another subject. "Can't do it. I'd just rather sleep under the stars."
But it's not all On The Road optimism. Many struggle with heroin addiction and can't seem to land on their feet. "It's a much darker scene now than it was even two or three years ago," Hirsch says.
Check out a few examples of his portraits below, and visit his website for more stories.
I've been on the road, this is my fourth year. But on and off, you know I tried going back to school. Tried living in a house a few times. It's just garbage. It doesn't work for me. I windup getting into way too much trouble and or just going insane in my own brain cause I can't handle all that bull crap....
I've just been traveling, around traveling around. I just want to see all fifty states and all the capitals so I can get the fuck out of this country and never come back. Fucking hate it here. Everybody's fucking robots, everywhere I go there's fucking robots. I swear to God. Have you been to Times Square lately? I scream at people. One one zero zero one one zero zero, cause they're fucking robots. I hate them. I cannot wait to get out of this fucking country. I just travel around, get drunk, get wasted and have a good fucking time. I do what the fuck I want. Go where the fuck I want. Living the life, living the dream. About a month ago. I've gone three and a half months without a shower before. Doesn't bother me. Why would you have to buy body odor? You make it. I get really mad at people who yell at me on the bus. You know you fucking smell like a chemical you bought in the store. I smell like what? What God wanted me to smell like. If your God wanted me to smell like flowers under my armpits, fucking flower smell would come out of my armpits. No, this is the smell that comes out. The only reason you can smell it is you're so busy trying to cover it up. I don't smell these kids. Sometimes I smell them and like damn you must smell really bad if I can smell you.
Yesterday fucking morning I woke up. Me and my boyfriend woke up. We were sleeping on 5th. Where was it 5th and A? My leash was around my wrist but my dog wasn't attached to my god damn leash. And fucking found out she was fucking gone. And then my boyfriend's supposed to get me a bag of heroin and then I went to sleep because I was all pissed off about my dog. Then I wake up and he's like, 'Baby I lost a bag of heroin." And I'm like, "God damn it. You lost. Ok you lost motherfucker, yeah you lost it." He's wasted. So I go back to sleep. I wake up and "Jahni your boyfriend's getting arrested."
I got a hundred dollars from Denzel Washington in Venice Beach , California. In my first month traveling. It was really cool. Like the day before these kids jumped me. Kicked me in my face. Took all my money. So that sucks man. Actually he was really cool. Pounded knuckles with him and stuff. Talk for like five or ten minutes. He was really nice.
I just want to be myself and sell cool stuff. Chill. My philosophy is to do what feels rights.
I don't see myself ten years from now living in a cardboard box. Drinking fucking hooch down by the railroad tracks. I mean I don't want to be a home bum. I'm not gonna be that home bum. Someday I'll do something. I just don't know when. I'm not gonna be a home bum, dude you know living under some fucking bridge when I'm like forty five years old. It's a way to live, definitely not a way to die if that makes any sense.
I travel around and hang out in different places. Because it's easier then doing anything else. I've tried to do the whole like have a job and all that kind of stuff. I get so depressed and so bored and so tired of everything and sick of people I always end up back on the road.