Saturday, 4 June 2016

Waking up from the Dream

Danish photographer Joakim Eskildsen was commissioned by Time in 2011 to photograph American poverty and there's a lot of it according the US Census Bureau, their figures (always in flux) come out at fifty million. It's worth saying that this is American poverty, where people can have jobs and homes but they are living on the edge all the time in high crime areas, in debt, poor physical health, with no real disposable income after paying bills for day to day living.

The fifty-two color photos capture all this in what the Census Bureau considers (in 2011) the most deprived areas in the country: Fresno, California; Athens, Georgia; Cheyenne River, South Dakota; New Orleans and Plaquemines Parish, Lousiana; Bronx, New York. The majority of photos have people in them in their living environment, which could be a room in house, a trailer, a tent or in the open under a bridge. I don't know if it was Eskildsen's intention but overall the photos have rather sombre color feel to them that contrasts with the always bright and sunny world of the American Dream that is out of reach to the folks in the pictures.

The book is more than just a collection of photos though because each picture has an extensive caption (all these unfortunately are at the back of the book so a lot of page flipping is required) that names the person, their recent circumstances and their hopes for the future. In so many instances this really does seem bleak, despite living in the US.

This isn't one of those huge photo books (only 9.5 by 8 inches) but the contents brilliantly capture the subject.

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