Worth a look: Joakim Eskildsen’s “Below the Line: Portraits of American Poverty”

Joakim Eskildsen - Below the Line - Time

This is one of my favorite series in a long time. Joakim Eskildsen traveled to New York, California, Louisiana, South Dakota and Georgia over seven months for Time magazine to photograph the growth in poverty in America. According to Time, more Americans live below the poverty line that at any time since the Census Bureau began collecting such data. Eskilden’s work here illustrates the striking diversity of Americans now living below poverty, showing the viewer how wide our continuing economic crisis has spread. The portraits are moving and emotive, portraying both the severity of the subjects’ situations and their underlying humanity.

I wasn’t well acquainted with Eskildsen’s work before, and ending up spending a while looking through his website. His book The Roma Journeys is available through Amazon; some of the pictures can be seen on his website.

Jared Soares – Martinsville, Virginia

Jared Soares wrote in with a link to his most recent project, a deep look into the socioeconomics of Martinsville, Virginia. It’s a sensitive, intimate look at the transformation of a town from being a manufacturing powerhouse to a dwindling population with 20% unemployment. You can see more of the work on his website. Here’s what Jared had to say about the project:

“Last fall I left my newspaper job. I started a project about Martinsville, Virginia- a city that was once dubbed the Sweatshirt Capital of the world because of the amount of nylon it produced. Furniture factories and textile plants from companies such as Dupont and American Furniture were prevalent in Martinsville and the surrounding area. Fair trade agreements such as NAFTA and a shifting global economy made textile and furniture industries economically unsustainable. In the 1990s, Dupont and other companies laid off thousands of workers and closed plants. Crime rates began to rise as plants where closed or relocated to neighboring states or overseas. The recent economic downturn has also crippled the city of 15,000 even more, resulting in a 20 percent unemployment, which is double the state and national rate.

“With this project I’m planning to look at a few themes including identity and youth. I want to convey the challenge that this city has in attempting to rebrand itself- it was once a proud factory city but now it’s at a cross roads and waiting for help so it can stimulate a rebirth. Also, with regard to youth, I’m examining how this generation is dealing with idea that Martinsville is seen as a depressed place- many of them were too young to remember Martinsville as an industrious place. They only know it as a trap or a place that they would one day like to leave.”

And if you’re on flattr (if not, you should be!), click the button below to send a micropayment to Jared for the project.

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