Pictures Of Hardship: A Photo Essay Of Americans In Debt

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Photographer Brittany M. Powell has an ambitious project worthy of your support. She has embarked on a project of taking portraits of people that have incurred debt. Having already taken at least 15 photographs of different individuals, she has a Kickstarter project to help realize her goal of 99 different portraits. After losing her own job in 2008 and facing severe financial hardship, Powell decided to find others in a similar situation, to tell their stories  and to dispel the social stigma surrounding bankruptcy, debt and talking about money issues in general. She says this about her project:

This [project] spurred my interest in investigating the role debt can play in our identity and how we relate to the world. Debt is publicly enforced and highly stigmatized, but is almost always privately experienced. It is in many ways an abstract form without material weight or structure, yet with heavy physicality and burden in a person’s everyday life. (Source)

Her subjects include James Riggs Davidson III who is an electrical contractor with a total debt of $52,335.63, Grace Ragland a family support worker with $75,000 in debt after her ex-husband was incarcerated and she became the sole carer of her family. She ended up working 2-3 jobs 7 days a week for 7 years. The range of people Powell profiles is so varied she really shows how common this problem is today.

My goal is to bring people together to recontextualize an abstract, often shamed experience. It is my hope that by having a platform to discuss this issue, it will encourage the viewer and participants to question and reframe our perception of debt and how we contribute to it’s power and role in our social structure. (Source)

To support her project visit her Kickstarter page here.

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  • Artie

    Sorry but this is not “hardship” -go to any third world country and youʻll see real poverty. Or maybe I donʻt understand this photo essay because it looks like these people have a fine standard of living compared to most humans on this planet.

  • Callie Vita

    When I was homeless, no one passing me on the street knew that I was. If a photographer had approached me and taken my photo, you would have seen an image of a very average nineteen-year-old girl.
    Couches can be gifted or found for free on the sidewalk, lamps can be purchased for a couple dollar at thrift stores.
    Images aren’t necessarily indicative of anything.

  • Eric

    All do these people have nice homes…what is the point of this photo essay?

  • fausto

    To document Eric, I don’t believe the images have to show people suffering in order to understand that they are in debt.

  • stefanie

    this is a great point. i’m currently homeless (living in a van) with heaps of student loan debt and on the job/apartment hunt, hard. i haven’t bought clothing for myself in 2 years, but i’ve been gifted some great stuff along the way, so nobody could guess my current situation just looking at me.

  • raz

    Not everything is so surface, comparing one persons struggle to another’s does neither justice.

  • Christian Žagarskas

    I want her to come take a picture of me so I can tell the story of racking up some $150,000+ of student loans, credit cards and IRS debt, paying it down to $16,000 in about 10 years by using the degree I earned to start a business, while not defaulting or missing more than 2 payments in a row. We can call it “portrait of a simple dude who believes in working and paying back what he borrows because he is thankful people let him borrow it and humbly understanding that having a couch to sleep on and a pot to piss in is not any form of poverty by a long shot in the USA”