Funded! This project was successfully funded on August 22, 2012.

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A multimedia project about poverty in America by award-winning Danish photographer Joakim Eskildsen and reporter Natasha Del Toro.

AMERICAN REALITIES: PORTRAITS OF POVERTY

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 46 million Americans live below the poverty line, that's the highest number since they started publishing poverty figures more than five decade ago. And in a recent AP report, economists and experts predict that number is rising.

I traveled last summer with award-winning Danish photographer Joakim Eskildsen on an assignment for TIME Magazine to California, South Dakota, Louisiana and New York to document the lives of the people behind the statistics. 

We collected hundreds of photos and personal stories of people struggling to make ends meet--the unemployed, the homeless, the working poor. The overwhelming response from Joakim's photo essay on TIME.com prompted us to produce our own multimedia website, expanding the scope of the work. We want to feature additional photos and audio interviews from the field.

The audio recordings have never been heard and we feel it's important to hear these voices. These people are real.

Adell White Dog's grandchildren sleep in strollers in front of the burnt trailer where they lived with Adell, their mother and aunt. PHOTO/JOAKIM ESKILDSEN
Adell White Dog's grandchildren sleep in strollers in front of the burnt trailer where they lived with Adell, their mother and aunt. PHOTO/JOAKIM ESKILDSEN

We spoke to people like Adell White Dog, a dishwasher at a local restaurant on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Her trailer burned down in an electrical fire a few hours before the picture (see above) was taken. FEMA sells condemned trailers to people on the reservation as an affordable housing solution.  This is the second time Adell loses her trailer and all of her belongings in an electrical fire, which is a common problem.

Click on the button below to hear Adell White Dog talk about the fire shortly after it happened. 

Felicia Ogbodo and her daughter Ermeline wonder how they will pay the bills, if Felicia, an unemployed social worker and single mom, can't find a job. PHOTO/JOAKIM ESKILDSEN
Felicia Ogbodo and her daughter Ermeline wonder how they will pay the bills, if Felicia, an unemployed social worker and single mom, can't find a job. PHOTO/JOAKIM ESKILDSEN

Felicia discusses her financial situation, in this audio piece edited by Sarah P. Reynolds:


Joakim is also producing a photography book called American Realities, with an introduction by poverty researcher and former TIME staff writer Barbara Kiviat. The book which will be published in January by Steidl, one of the most significant publishers on photography, who also published Joakim's acclaimed The Roma Journeys in 2007.

After American Realities is released, we are also discussing traveling exhibitions of the show and the creation of an iPad application. 

WHY WE ARE RAISING MONEY

The funds we receive will be used primarily to pay audio producers and to hire a very competent web designer to build the American Realities multimedia website, which will include social media and a section for people to post their own stories of poverty from around the country. The money will also cover follow-up reporting, transcriptions, translations and photo fees.

Without your support, we would not be able to finish this project, which will serve as a historical and artistic document of Americans at a time of high unemployment and slow economic recovery. We are looking at the challenges Americans face, as well as their perseverance, hopes and dreams.

Through these stories, we aim to create a portrait of America at this moment and perhaps spur dialogue about what kind of nation we want to be and how to get there.

One out-of-work interior designer in New Orleans named Marla said it's more than just an economic recession. "It's a paradigm shift. We lost our blue collar jobs. We are losing our professional jobs now. And I think we really sold out our country," she said. "I'm not suggesting we become protectionist, but I don't think we've been taking care of our own."

What do you think? We hope this multimedia website will encourage people to join the conversation.

Bronx residents stand in line for free food.
Bronx residents stand in line for free food.

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