The Debt Project
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  • BLURBS: Targeted blurbs from relevant thought-leaders like Sarah Smarsh author of Heartland and celebrated photographer Hank Willis Thomas/

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FEATURED IN THE NEW YORKER: The Faces of Americans Living in Debt

Finalist for the Dorothea Lange/Paul Taylor Prize in Documentary.

Featured on Politico, in the Washington Post, the Daily Mail, and the Huffington Post, USA Today, Business Insider, Refinery29, and Fast Company.

Based on the popular online photo series and now published in print for the first time, The Debt Project collects 99 portraits of debt across the United States, featuring people of all different backgrounds and stories, to recontextualize an often stigmatized experience.

In 2013, Brittany Powell made the difficult decision to file for bankruptcy for her photography business. In the years following the 2008 economic collapse, she found herself in a significant amount of debt, a position many Americans across the country still share, a common yet isolating and private experience often steeped in shame.

Her personal experience, bolstered by the We Are the 99% slogan that came out of the Occupy movement, brought her to start The Debt Project, an exploration of the role debt and finance plays in our personal identity and social structure. This book presents an intimate look into 99 different lives: each shares an arrestingly honest portrait in the person’s home, surrounded by all their belongings, accompanied by a handwritten note of the amount of debt that person is in and the story behind the numbers.

The Debt Project, with a foreword by writer and filmmaker Astra Taylor plus resources at the back of the book to support people in debt, examines the social and personal hold financial debt has on us and invites others into a private world, while at the same empowering people to share their stories and overcome the shame they may feel.



Publié par
Date de parution 27 octobre 2020
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781513264349
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 4 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0850€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.



99 POR
© 2020 by B rittany M. Powe ll
Foreword © 2 020 b y As tra T ay lor
All ri ghts r eserv ed. No par t o f this boo k ma y be rep roduced or tran smitte d i n an y for m or b y an y me ans, e lectro nic o r me chanical, inc luding p hotoc opying, rec ording, or by a ny information st orage and retri eval s ystem , w ithout w ritten per mission o f the pub lisher .
Library of C ongress Ca taloging-in -Publi cation D ata
Names: Powel l, B rittany M, aut hor .
Title: T he d ebt p roject : 9 9 p ortrait s a cross Ame rica / Br ittany M P owell ; with a fore word b y As tra T ay lor .
Description: Be rkeley : W est Ma rgin P ress, 2020 . | Sum mary: “T he D ebt P roject is a pho to se ries o f 99 por trait s a nd h andwritt en s tories of deb t acr oss the US ”—P rovide d b y pu blisher .

Identifier s: L CCN 2020 01645 0 ( print) | L CCN 2020 01645 1 ( eb ook) | ISBN 9 7815 132643 32 ( hardback ) | ISB N 9 7815 132643 49 ( eb ook)
Subjects: LCS H: D ebt— Unit ed S tates. | D ebt— Unit ed S tates—P ictorial wor ks.
Classificati on: L CC HG1 81 . P665 2020 (prin t) | LC C HG 181 ( eb ook) | D DC 3 32.7 /4 3092273— dc23 LC re cord a vailable at htt ps:/ / lccn.loc. gov/ 2020016 450 LC e book r ecord avai lable a t htt ps:/ / lccn.loc. gov/ 2020016 451
Proudly dist ributed by I ngram P ublisher Ser vices .
Printed in Chi na
5 4 3 2 1
Graphic A rts B ooks is an imp rint o f
WestMa rginPres
Publishing D irecto r: J ennifer Ne wens Marketi ng Ma nager: A ngela Z bornik Project Spe cialist: G abrielle Ma udiere Editor : O livia N gai Design & Prod uction: Rache l Lo pez M etzg er
This book is dedic ated to m y son, Wa ylon P owell Z uaro, who I hope wil l one day live in a wor ld where equality i s the defa ult, inste ad of the goal.





It i s a lways h ard t o s ee a n a bsence. W hat does l ack l ook l ike? H ow d o y ou r epresent the e xisten ce o f d ebt, o f a ccounts p ast d ue, in a w orld o bsessed w ith a ffluence a nd plenty? B rittan y Pow ell’ s p ower ful s eries The Debt P roject off ers a comp elling a nd m oving visual response t o thes e urgent questi ons.
As a w riter , f ilmmake r, a nd o rganiz er, I h ave b een w orking i n v arious m edia t o make th e c risis of i ndebte dness bo th vi sible and a ctionable, a nd t o t ransform i t f rom a source o f in dividual sh ame an d an xiety in to an o pportunity f or s hared i ndignation a nd solidarity . Afte r all, bein g broke is somethi ng we a re s ocialize d n ot t o d iscuss, e ven tho ugh most p eople a re i n a rrears. We ne ed t o b reak this s ilence a nd b e h onest a bout t he f inancial burdens w e a ll ca rry. That is t he only way to expose an d t ransform the c omplex sy stem of debt an d cr edit t hat di ctates t he t erms an d conditions under which so many of us live .
Debt is a p aradox ical th ing. Ever y ba lance owed i s s omeone e lse’s a sset, a s ource o f interest a nd i ncome f or l enders p ositioned to p rofit. T hose a ssets a re a k ey w ay a handful o f va st for tunes g row. In 2 019, t hree billionaires h eld m ore w ealth t ogethe r t han half o f t he c ountry ’s p opulation c ombined. But t he m ath i sn’t t hat s urprising. T he same y ear i t w as r eporte d t hat t he a vera ge
American d ies w ith a n egative b alance o f over $60,00 0 hangi ng ov er t hem. W hen y ou add u p t he b alances o f m illions o f p eople who ar e w orth l ess t han no thing, e ven z ero proves impossible to reach.
It i s t ime f or a m oral a ccounti ng. W ho actually ow es wh at to w hom? W hat de bts ar e just a nd w hich a re u njust? T hese q uestions took on a n ew u rgency w hen t he c oronav irus pandemic c rashed t he g lobal e conomy in e arly 2 020. T he o utbreak p recipitate d a d ual c risis, a m edical o ne a nd a f inancial one. A s p eople a cross t he c ountry w ere ordered t o “ shelter in p lace” fo r the phy sical health o f t heir c ommuniti es, c ountless j obs disappeared alm ost ov ernight.
These i mages h elp e xplain w hy t he economic d evastat ion w as s o f ast a nd furious f or s o m any p eople, f or t hey o ffe r a w indow i nto t he p eriod j ust b efore coronav irus a ppeared o n t he s cene. S ince debtor s by defin ition h ave no s avings, a l oss of i ncome me ans f alling d eeper i nto a d ebt trap o r s piraling i nto d efault. C ontrary t o the m yth o f th e p rofligate s pender , th e v ast majority o f p eople b orrow m oney t o m ake ends m eet. H undreds o f m illions o f r egular working Ameri cans pay for housing, medical care, an d sc hooling wi th cr edit. Th ey ba rely manage t o h old o n by a th read, a nd i n e arly
2020 that deli cate thr ead snapped in two.
Most bo rrower s ar e no t in d ebt be cause they l ive b eyon d t heir m eans; t hey a re i n debt be cause th ey ar e d enied th e m eans to live. Th at w as a s t rue l ast y ear a s i t i s t oday . In c ountries t hat h ave u nivers al he alth ca re, medical d ebt i s u nheard o f; i n t he U nited States, m edical de bt is t he le ading ca use of bankruptc y a nd t he p rospect o f a ccruing medical d ebt d iscourages p eople f rom seeking t he t reatmen t t hey n eed. I f w e h ad tuition- free p ublic c ollege a vailab le t o a ll, educatio nal d ebt w ould v irtually d isappear . If w orker s w ere p aid f airly f or t heir l abor , predato ry p ayda y l enders a nd m any c redit card c ompanies w ould b e f orced o ut o f business. I nstead, d ecades of f latlining wa ges and t he d eregulati on o f t he f inancial s ector have fueled the ex plosion of cons umer debt.
The Debt Pr oject revea ls the human fac es and st ories be hind th e nu mbers an d st atistics . What d oes d ebt l ook l ike? I t i s n ot j ust a number o n a p ast- due n otice. D ebt l ooks like a h uman b eing. I t l ooks l ike a m other taking o ut a t itle l oan o n h er c ar , a c hild denied n ourishment b ecause h er p arents owe t he s chool “ lunch d ebt,” a se nior c itizen having t heir t ax r eturns g arnished t o s ettle a judgment, a pati ent jailed bec ause they can’t pay the ir hospital bill.
Debt l ooks l ike m e i n 2 008, t he y ear I d efaulted o n m y s tudent l oans b ecause I couldn’t p ay m y m onthly b alance a nd r ent at the same ti me, especially not in the midst of a n e conomic c risis. A nd y et, i nstead o f being o ffe red a l ifeline, m y l oan s ervice r punished wi th an e ven hi gher pr incipal an d pushed d eeper i nto a f inancial h ole w hile destroy ing m y c redit. W hat i f, b ack t hen, I had en counter ed The De bt Pr oject ? I c ould have seen that m y circum stances, whic h felt so h umiliating a nd d esperate , w ere h ardly unique.
Fortuna tely, I e ventua lly f ound o thers i n the s ame b oat. A round t he t ime P owell started h er p roject, a r evolt b egan t o b rew. The D ebt C ollectiv e, a u nion f or d ebtor s I cofounded, w as b orn o f t he O ccupy W all Street mo veme nt th at al so in spired Po well’ s decision t o f eature 9 9 p ortrait s. ( It w as Occupy , a fte r a ll, t hat p opulariz ed t he i dea of the 99 %.) The De bt C ollectiv e is a uni on o f sorts. We aim to hel p de btors come tog ether and w ield t heir f inancial o bligations a s lever age. In 2 015 w e l aunched a st rike, w ith hundreds o f p eople r efusing t o p ay t heir student loans. Since th en, we hav e wo n ov er $1.5 b illion o f d ebt a bolition f or t ens o f thousands o f b orrowe rs, a nd p ut t he p roposal for a s tudent l oan j ubilee—t he m ass cancellati on o f a ll s tudent d ebt— on t he national agend a.
I s ee P owell’ s w ork a s p art o f t his insurgency . S he us es he r ca mera to c hallenge preconce ptions. T he s ubjects f eatured i n this book h ave a grace and dig nity. They are in t heir h omes, s ometimes l ooking i nto t he lens b ut o fte n g azing t oward t he d istance. They d o n ot a ppear g uilty or r epentant , b ut honest, s ympatheti c, a nd u nashamed. T his is v ital, b ecause f or c enturies d ebtor s w ere
regarded a s c riminals w ho c ould b e l ocked away a nd d enied t heir b asic d emocratic rights. De btors , i t w as b elieve d, d eserve d to be p unished, a d ehumanizi ng a ttitude t hat lingers on to day .
And ye t, de btors a re fi ghting ba ck. Th ey are f inding e ach o ther a nd r ecogniz ing, a s The Debt Collect ive’s mott o ins ists, t hat the y are “not a loan.” My hope is that t his allian ce of d ebtor s w ill g row, a nd t hat t hey w ill b e not only dignif ied but defi ant. Our ec onomic system i s a n a bomination. W hy s hould people b e f orced i nto d ebt b ecause t hey want t o l earn, o r be cause t hey h ad ba d lu ck and g ot l aid o ff, o r b ecame i ll, o r b ecause they n eed s helter or f ood t o e at? W hy s hould debtors d utifully m ake p ayments w hen profite ers d eny a ll o f u s t he p ublic s ervice s and p rotect ions p eople n eed t o w eather a p andemic, a d epression, o r w hateve r t he next disas ter migh t be?
Forget d ebt f orgiven ess—we m ust demand j ustice. I n o rder to m ake th at d emand togethe r, mor e deb tors m ust c ome o ut o f the shadows. I h ope P owell’ s p owerf ul a nd empowe ring p hotogr aphs w ill g ive m ore people the coura ge to do so.
Astra T ay lor March 2020
I s tarte d The D ebt P roject

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