Explore the Surprising Faces of Debt In America

The Debt Project, a new series by photographer Brittany M. Powell, illuminates the real people behind the numbers.

Brittany Powell, The Debt Project

Hundreds of millions of Americans currently shoulder staggering debt that threatens to spiral them into financial insecurity. According to a recent study by the Federal Reserve, 1 in 50 households carry more than $20,000 in credit card debt, with the U.S. population as a whole owing more than 2.4 trillion. Of that inconceivable amount, $60 billion is from credit cards, at an average of $7,327 per household. This is not a faceless statistic. Many workers, still recovering from the seismic shock of the Great Recession, give over a sizable portion of their paycheck each month to cover these debts. In a shocking study commissioned by ProPublica and ADP, it was reported, “more than one in 10 employees in the prime working ages of 35 to 44 had their wages garnished in 2013.” Debt, the elephant in the room, is an insidious and often invisible force. Whether it’s from student loans, medical bills, credit cards, or real estate, the burden can feel so substantial that it almost seems like a physical presence in our lives. The Debt Project, a photo series by San Francisco-based photographer Brittany M. Powell, hopes to illuminate what debt really looks like by peering into the surroundings of those living beneath its weight. The result is a group of intimate photos, still under development, that show the real and often banal face of financial hardship.

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