Tag Archives: Poverty

The Boy from Troy

Donny began raking in the cash almost immediately after the short yellow school bus dropped him off in front of his house in Troy N.Y.

He spotted his mother Kayla, 22, who had been waiting for him on their front porch and hurled his Spiderman backpack in the direction of her feet. As he walked up the steps, Donny made himself available to a random, yet steady, trickle of well wishers, the sort who preferred to peel off a few green backs instead of fumbling with gift paper and bows. Donny, whose name has been changed at the request of the photographer, turned eight that day and in his neighborhood, occasions such as birthdays, funerals and releases from prison, drew big crowds in which everyone was considered family and obliged to make an appearance.

That birthday, which took place this April, was particularly important for Donny. His previous birthday had fallen in the middle of a fourteen-day crisis intervention that the seven year old had spent in a pediatric psychiatric facility. Since kindergarten, Donny has struggled with several emotional and behavioral disorders including attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and separation anxiety. His diagnoses have resulted in multiple suspensions that have caused him to miss valuable school time.

This year, family members were making up for lost time. Jose, an old sweetheart of Kayla’s who was recently released from prison, passed by the stoop with a twenty; Donny’s uncle Will, who was scheduled to begin a 60-day stint in county jail, left a fist full of ones; Kayla’s brother Robby, out on probation, put $10 towards a World Wrestling Federation action figure that Donny wanted. And Sabrina, an extended family member, dropped by to give Donny a huge hug and reveal her birthday plan to take him to a Yankees game. A cousin to Donny’s biological father, Sabrina has filled in for him, on and off, since Donny’s birth and later became Kayla’s first serious girlfriend.

I’ve known Donny since he was born, after a friend introduced to me Sabrina, who was the subject of a New York Times Magazine assignment that sent me close to my hometown in upstate New York. It was the first time that I returned as a professional since leaving there more than 30 years before. Kayla lived in Troy, just 10 minutes from where I grew up, and her story resonated with me. Reserved and street smart, Kayla was the girl I wished I was when I was 14. There was an uneasy identification between the two of us that grew into friendship over the next eight years while I continued to document Kayla, Sabrina and their friends who lived as a family on the same block. A family, I discovered, that was formed largely in response to increasingly punitive legal, moral and economic shifts within their working class community. I watched, as school either became the interface between the justice system and a disengaged teenager or a lifeline thrown from an involved teacher. At year six, I began to agonize about the utility of this monster story and when Donny began school, it became evident that he was the story. Donny is the proverbial child that this neighborhood raised.

Donny is one of a number of very young children that are part of an alarming increase in students being labeled with disabilities at much younger ages. He was suspended from school four times when he was in kindergarten, almost twice that in first grade and more than twenty days in second grade. In New York City, policy critics and social justice advocates note that minority children and children with disabilities are more likely to be suspended, and at much younger ages. Yet, organizations such as the Children’s Defense Fund note that there is no evidence to show that suspension corrects behavior, especially among children as young as Donny—and that this supports a “cradle to prison” pipeline. The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights 2009-2010 survey released In March 2012, shows that once students are suspended from school, they are more likely to be suspended again—and ultimately may serve time in prison.

In February, Donny was taken out of the Rennselaer county school district regular classroom for special education and placed in day treatment that serves as a specialized school with one-on-one instruction in small classrooms, a longer school year and where suspension is not an option. That consistency, along with the support of a team of social workers, has been a tremendous factor in his improvement at home and school. Kayla says he wakes her while it is still dark and wants to get ready for school. In the past, school social workers had targeted one of Donny’s “triggers” as school avoidance, and it became a cycle, with him acting out because he knew he would be sent home and then not feeling a part of the class when he returned and then acting out so he could leave again. Donny has now been in school since February without being suspended. This is the longest time he has gone with out a suspension since kindergarten.

Brenda Ann Kenneally is a photographer based in New York. See more of her work hereTo read more about the project, visit Upstategirls.org.

Rachel Hulin

When Kevin Miyazaki released this month’s Collect Give image by photographer Rachel Hulin, my mouth curled into a huge grin and I had to see more. The image is in an edition of 20, selling for $40 to benefit Children’s Friend, organization helps children facing poverty, language barriers, lack of education, substance abuse, and difficulty accessing health care. Children’s Friend supports families by creating safe and nurturing environments for children during the crucial early years, helping parents gain access to the resources, education, and support that they need.

Rachel is a photographer and writer based in Providence, Rhode Island and New York City. Her work has been shown at ICP, Jen Bekman Gallery, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Wallspace Gallery, and The New York Photo Festival. Her writing has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, PDN, and The Photography Post, which she co-founded in 2010. She has a BA from Brown University and an MA from NYU. She lives with her husband and son Henry in a former seltzer factory and likes to help Henry fly.

Another Side of Afghanistan by Larry Towell

Back in 2008, photographer Larry Towell’s agency, Magnum Photos, had contacted him about a project in Afghanistan that would require him to embed with the British military. Towell, having just completed work in Palestine, decided that he didn’t want to see Afghanistan for the first time with an embed, and instead set forth to see the country on his own. “It was important for me to learn more about the history of Afghanistan to get some perspective about what’s going on today and see if I even had anything to say,” says Towell, who was later awarded a Magnum Emergency Fund to aid his work. From 2008 to 2011, Towell traveled to Afghanistan five times, documenting in both photographs and videos the various social issues that plague its citizens, from drug addiction and poverty to the prevalence of landmines, many of which still remain from the Soviet occupation of the country during the 1980s.

Larry Towell—Magnum

Larry Towell, Afghanistan: Military

Through five harrowing videos (three of which are shown here), Towell gives viewers a comprehensive look at life for citizens inside conflict-riddled Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the photographs from this project are on display for the first time in Larry Towell: Danger and Aftermath at the Museum London in Southwestern Ontario through April 1. “I wanted to look more at the social problems before I looked at what was going on militarily,” the photographer says. “The victims of the war weren’t just people who were wounded. They were the people living in the rural areas who were forced into the cities without means.”


Larry Towell—Magnum

Larry Towell, Afghanistan: Amputees

Towell is now at work with Aperture to turn his pictures into a book by spring 2013. The poignant publication date means Towell’s recent documentation of the country will be on display just as U.S. forces are expected to end their combat role in Afghanistan.

Larry Towell is a Candian photographer represented by Magnum Photos. Larry Towell: Danger and Aftermath is on display through April 1 at the Museum London in Southwestern Ontario. All images, video and sound ©Larry Towell—Magnum.

Exclusive: Photos of Miami’s Homeless by Lee Jeffries

Last month LightBox featured the work of Lee Jeffries, a self-taught photographer who is crusading to bring attention to the plight of the homeless. Most recently, he traveled to Florida from the end of January through early February to continue the series he began in London four years ago.

It was a poignant time for Jeffries to be in Miami. The Sunshine State held its Republican primary on Jan. 31., and the following day, contest winner and GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney said in an interview that he was “not concerned about the very poor” because “we have a safety net there.” In Miami, the photographer documented some of the city’s most impoverished—many of whom have fallen through the “safety net” Romney described and find themselves homeless, living on the streets. As he does on every trip, Jeffries met and spent time with people on an individual basis—listening to their life stories, taking their portraits and trying to help them in any way he could.

Here LightBox presents an exclusive first look at Jeffries’ latest images of his powerful and moving portrait series on the homeless population—a series that has previously taken him from his native Manchester, England, to Rome, Los Angeles, New York and Las Vegas. Jeffries says first few days of each trip are always tentative. He tends to make small steps into the areas he has researched prior to his visit. This time around, Jeffries focused on Miami Beach, Downtown Miami, Fifth Street and Overtown, which has achieved a certain notoriety for being one of the tougher areas of town.

As this trip progressed Jeffries found that each area of Miami had its own distinct characteristics. Miami Beach, which includes South Beach, had a homeless population that tended to drift in from the downtown areas during the course of the week, perhaps for safety or the relative ease of panhandling from the richer tourists. Seeing downtown Miami’s sidewalks literally lined with homeless people surrounded by bags or trolleys of their entire worldly possessions immediately took Jeffries’ mind back to the hundreds of homeless people he had encountered lining Fifth St. and St. Julian, the address of Los Angeles’ Skid Row neighborhood.

In Overtown, located just above downtown, Jeffries found a mix of homeless people and housed families. Originally called Colored Town during the city’s segregated past, it is a major center of the African-American population and Jeffries says he found the community a little daunting to enter at first. But that didn’t last long. “I soon met some people who touched my heart so deeply I will never forget them,” he says, noting that only chance stood between their situation and that of anyone else.

One such person was Latoria, a 29-year-old who has lived in Overtown for just over a year and whose genuine sadness made a particularly deep impression on the photographer. “I spent time with her every day of my trip since our first meeting,” says Jeffries. “Her uncompromising addiction to crack cocaine was both obvious and tragic and I often watched helplessly as she fed that addiction. Perhaps the most moving aspect for me was witnessing her almost child-like vulnerability. There was just something about her that just screamed the tragedy of a wasted life.”

Then there was Terri, also living in Overtown, who has been on the streets on and off since she was 13;  ”Flowers,” a cool Jamaican property owner; “Cooper,” a homeless man Jeffries met in a cemetery;  and “Calvin” from Overtown, who was shot in the eye 1981 during a gang war.

“They are all part of the community,” Jeffries says, “and that is exactly what places like Overtown and Downtown Miami are: communities of people who shouldn’t be feared but respected and embraced and helped wherever possible. I have the utmost respect for every person I met there, and I hope I left with theirs.”

See Jeffries’ earlier work on LightBox here.

Lee Jeffries is a photographer based in Manchester, England. See more of his work here. Jeffries asks that readers interested in helping the homeless population of Miami visit Caring for Miami.

Pictures of the Week, January 20 – January 27

From the State of the Union and the Year of the Dragon to ballot boxes and backstage fashion, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Photographer #431: Darcy Padilla

Darcy Padilla, 1965, USA, is a photojournalist and documentary photographer. Her career as a freelance photographer started after completing 12 internships at daily newspapers as The New York Times and The Washington Post. Since then she covered stories in Cuba and Haiti, on Aids in Prison and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, just to name a few. Her most acclaimed body of work is The Julie Project. This long-term project is the story of a woman called Julie Baird. Eighteen years Darcy followed and photographed the story of AIDS, drug abuse, abusive relationships, poverty and death. Julie died on September 27th, 2010 at the age of 36, after having lived a turbulant life in which she gave birth to six children of whom the first five were taken away from her. It is an impressive, heartbreaking project with a dramatic, yet expected ending. The series rightfully received the W. Eugene Smith Award for Humanistic Photography in 2010. Amongst other awards for her work is the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for the work she did photographing residents of transient hotels in one of the poorest neighborhoods in San Francisco. All of the following images are from The Julie Project.

Website: www.darcypadilla.com

Below The Line: Portraits of American Poverty

Correction appended Nov. 18, 2011: A previous version of a caption in this slideshow incorrectly stated that a house had toxic drywall. TIME regrets the error.

In 2010, more Americans lived below the poverty line than at any time since 1959, when the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting this data. Last January, TIME commissioned photographer Joakim Eskildsen to capture the growing crisis, which now affects nearly 46.2 million Americans. Traveling to New York, California, Louisiana, South Dakota and Georgia over seven months, Eskildsen’s photographs of the many types of people who face poverty appear in the new issue of TIME. Eskildsen, who last visited America in 1986, says the poverty crisis was a side of the country he’d rarely seen in the media in Berlin, where he is based. “For Europeans living outside of America, it’s a mythical place because we’re breastfed with all those images of Coca-Cola and American culture,” Eskildsen says. “It was very heartbreaking to see all kinds of people facing poverty because many of these people were not only economically poor, but living in unhealthy conditions overall.”

Eskildsen was also surprised by how pervasive poverty is in America. “Once you start digging, you realize people in poverty are everywhere, and you can really go through your life without seeing them before you yourself are standing in the food stamp line,” he says. “So many people spoke about the disappointment of the American Dream—this, they said, was the American Reality.” In the accompanying magazine story, Barbara Kiviat argues that “there is no single archetype of America’s poor,” and that “understanding what poverty is in reality—and not in myth—is crucial” to efforts to erase the situation. Perhaps equally as crucial is the effort to put a face to the statistic, which Eskildsen has done here in haunting detail.

Joakim Eskildsen is a Danish photographer based in Berlin. He is best known for his book The Roma Journeys (Steidl, 2007). More of his work can be seen here

The project was done in collaboration with Natasha Del Toro, reporter for TIME.

Feifei Sun is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @Feifei_Sun or on Facebook.

Photographer #376: Jodi Bieber

Jodi Bieber, 1967, is a documentary photographer from South Africa. She studied photography at the Market Theatre photographic workshop and attended the World Press Masterclass in 1996. Between 1994 and 2004 she worked on a project that focused on youth living on the fringes of South African society. These images were assembled in the book entitled Dogs and Wolves – Growing up with South Africa. In 2010 she released her second monograph; Soweto. When thinking of Soweto one often refers to crime, poverty and problems with aids. The color photographs of Jodi are however a celebration and portrait of life in Soweto today. She represents the place how the inhabitants experience it, where they have their homes, do their shopping and live their lifes. Jodi is this years winner of the World Press Photo Award with the portrait of Aisha, an Afghan girl who’s face was mutilated as retribution for fleeing her husband’s house. She received several other World Press Awards in preceding years. Her work has been exhibited extensively throughout the world. The following images come from the series Soweto, Las Canas and A Weapon of War.


Website: www.jodibieber.com