At the end of the millennium, thousands of homeless people roamed the streets of Manhattan. A small group of them went underground. Invisible to society, they managed to start a new life in the tunnel systems of the city.
Acclaimed war photographer and cultural anthropologist Teun Voeten gained unprecedented access to this netherworld. For five months in 1994 and 1995 he lived, slept and worked in a community of homeless in the Amtrak tunnel under Riverside Park.
The tunnel people were evicted in 1996, but Amtrak and homeless organizations offered them alternative housing. Some succeeded in starting again above ground, while others failed. Voeten published Tunnel People originally in Amsterdam, 1996. For the updated US version that appeared in 2010, he managed to track down the original tunnel dwellers and described what happened in the thirteen years since they left the tunnels.
In Tunnel People, we get to know Vietnam veterans, macro-biotic hippies, crack addicts, Cuban refugees, convicted killers, computer programmers, philosophical recluses and criminal runaways. Tunnel People, both the book with its wealth of ethnographic details and the photo documentary with strong yet elegant and telling images has become a classic testimony of homeless life in the 1990s.
Teun Voeten studied Cultural Anthropology and Philosophy in the Netherlands. He is an award winning journalist and photographer who covered the conflicts in Bosnia, Colombia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, Honduras, DR Congo, North Korea, Mexico, Libya and Syria. His work has been published in Vanity Fair, Newsweek, The New Yorker and National Geographic. He also works for organizations as the ICRC, UNHCR, Doctors without Borders and Human Rights Watch.
In 1996, he published ‘Tunnel People’, an account of an underground homeless community in New York. His first photo book ‘A Ticket To’ came out in 1999. ‘How de Body? Hope and Horror in Sierra Leone’, was published in 2000 and describes a journey which nearly ended in disaster when Voeten was hunted down by childsoldiers intent on killing him.
Voeten also makes videos, and contributed to the documentary ‘Restrepo’. As a curator, he organized in 2011 the exhibition “Generation 9/11. Ten Years War Photography.” . Between 2009 and 2012, Voeten covered the drug war in Mexico and published ‘Narco Estado. Drug Violence in Mexico.’ Currently, he is working on a PhD dissertation on extreme violence in warfare. Voeten lectures often at cultural and educational institutions.