Photographic survey & testament of the disappearing middle class, the educated, working and traditionally poor of the U.S. today.
The Short of it: POVERTY NOW is a photographic project with the intent to produce a document of proof that will stand as a testament of the condition of poverty in the U.S. during the early 21st century. My hope is that these images will help those people who are unseen to become seen. And in turn help create a call to action for the elimination of poverty in the U.S.
Note: by funding this project you can become a part of it. You will receive regular updates and be able to communicate with me. I would appreciate any leads you think I should follow up on, and news specific to your areas.
I am actively seeking galleries and museums within the states and internationally to show this work. The primary focus of this work is on poverty that is directly tied to the U.S. economy and since the U.S. economy greatly affects the global economy - international shows would have a great impact.
Please become a part of my project and help me reach my goal.
If you have questions about the project, see the FAQs at the bottom, or send me a message, I welcome all communication.
Thank you - Jason Houge
POVERTY NOW: is in PHASE 1
Pride, strength, love, tenacity, and family are what often motivate people who live impoverished lives to keep moving along in life. Poverty is a very sensitive topic for many in this country. Since the U.S. is comprised of a great number of nationalities and cultures, each with their own histories and ways of doing things, seeing poverty as it is now will be no easy subject to explore.
POVERTY NOW is an exploration into the way of life and needs of the millions of people affected by poverty within the U.S. I aim to complete this project with a published book, film, and show the work publicly. The images will depict the hardships people face each day and the way they cope with or without the little amount of help available in the community or through the federal government.
The recent "Great Recession" and housing crisis has had a major impact on the middle-class, forcing many who have never before lived among the poor to suddenly be counted within their ranks. People who are traditionally poor are said to have a "Culture of Poverty." People of the Middle and Upper classes tend to have little or no understanding about this culture, making the transition difficult for those who have suddenly experienced the tragedy of foreclosure, bankruptcy, overwhelming credit card debt, or the numerous job losses that have occurred in the last few years.
I have been photographing families and the lives of individuals since 2009. Between working a part-time job and being a student, I have paid for everything out of pocket until now. With your support, I will be able to continue my work and broaden my scope. Time is of the essence because this topic is grossly under-exposed and more people are affected every day.
POVERTY NOW will be a multi-phased project. In each phase, I will record interviews with various people to be used as quotes and clips for both the book and multi-media film. My hope is that my work will broaden the understanding of poverty and the needs of the people across this country. My goal is to accomplish Phase 3 within the next two years.
Phase 1: North Central U.S., South and Southeastern U.S., and the West
Phase 2: Northeast and New England, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico
Phase 3: Publish book and finalize multi-media film
Any additional money raised during this phase will be used to explore additional leads and to give me a head start on the next phase of the journey.
At present, I am also working on a related project called Seeds of Hope, created as a joint effort by the Catholic Diocese, Salvation Army, The Boys and Girls Club, [Oneida] Wise Women Gathering, and Operation Snowball. Local children from working poor and/or impoverished backgrounds in Brown County, Wisconsin were given cameras and asked to photograph how they see and understand poverty. I am acting as an adviser and assisting with the project. I am also contributing by photographing each of the children participating and producing a short film of interviews to accentuate and support the work these children are doing. This project is scheduled to open mid-June, 2012, and is to remain up for approximately six months to a year at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Additional links of past shows with Seeds of Hope:
2010 Seeds of Hope poverty simulation
2010 Seeds of Hope interview with creator: Bobbie Lison
2011 Images of Hope traveling show
2011 Fox 11 News: Images of Hope Gallery
Poverty Now has been featured on the following sites:
Lost At E Minor
Belmaker Writing Co
The simple answer is no. Awareness may undoubtedly be raised just by the nature of the work, but that isn't my ultimate goal. Awareness does not change anything, action does. POVERTY NOW, in my mind, would stand as a record, a reminder if you will, of what is happening RIGHT NOW at this point in history.
In 1964, President Lyndon B Johnson launched the "war on poverty." Looking at things today, nothing has really changed for the better. Some changes were made during that time and after, and they helped for some. But these changes: welfare, food stamps, WIC, housing assistance, medicare, family planning, etc are currently being stripped away. At present, the poverty rate is almost equal to that of 1964. http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/incpovhlth/2010/figure5.pdf
So I feel something more than just awareness needs to come out of this. Besides standing as a record of our history, my hope for this project is that it will change the ideas people have about poverty and what poverty is. I hope that when my project is complete, action ensues and new programs that not only benefit the poor in our society, but everyone equally, are conceived and enacted.
The amount of $22,150 does seem to be an ambitious goal at first glance, but lets break it down...
That money will cover:
Travel by car and by air
Maintenance on the car (oil, fluids, bulbs, etc)
Lodging and Food
Equipment and supplies (such as film, paper, chemistry, mats, frames, media, batteries, etc.)
Shipping of those supplies to me
Stamps and other materials to ship rewards to you
What that money does not cover:
Paying for bills at home
Laundry at home
Feeding my cats
I have budgeted for approximately 6 months of travel time for Phase 1. If there is additional money raised, I will be able to put that towards Phase 2, reducing the amount that will be needed at that point. Again, this project has 3 parts to it, the final stage will be to publish the work, complete the film, and showing the work in a gallery and/or museum. Thank you for your support.