Photographer Christopher Occhicone spent months following a group of addicts who live on the outskirts of Lakewood, N.J., in a tent city in the forest. The result is his long-term project titled Fringe. “They live outside the boundaries of social norms,” he writes in his introduction to the series. “Their food and clothing needs are satisfied through donations. Their drug and alcohol needs are met by cash gotten from odd jobs, petty crime, sympathetic relatives, and social security and disability payments.”
Today, the camp is gone. Promoters acquired the land it used to sit on, buying out its former occupants. But, in 2013, when a group of 15 to 20 people still lived in tents and makeshift home, Occhicone documented their everyday lives.
“It took time to get the access,” he says. “In the eight months I spent there, I really shot a lot for four months. The first two months, I was just hanging around, talking to people and not taking any pictures. I wanted to get to know the guys.” That also meant eating and drinking with them. “They invite you to eat, you eat. They offer you a beer, you have a beer,” he says. “Obviously, there are certain lines you don’t cross, certain things you get offered that you don’t accept.”
Quickly, two main characters appeared in Occhicone’s work: Chris and Eve. The married couple, featured in many of the New Jersey-based photographer’s work, had a turbulent relationship. “She was a 30-year-old alcoholic, and he was only 19,” he says. “And it felt like he thought he was in a summer camp. I don’t think he realized what he was doing. They would call the cops on each other all the time.”
Now, with the camp dismantled, Occhicone’s work is done. “I think I said what I wanted to say,” he tells TIME.
Christopher Occhicone is a New Jersey-based freelance photographer.