Project Shows How Twelve People Got Into Debt in San Francisco

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The Debt Project

Credit: Brittany M. Powell


Crossposted from The Bold Italic
In 2012, after struggling with a significant loss of income from my photography business following the 2008 economic decline, my debt skyrocketed, and I made the difficult decision to file for bankruptcy. This inspired my interest in investigating how debt affects our identities and how we relate to the world. Debt is publicly enforced and highly stigmatized but is almost always privately experienced. It is in many ways an abstract form without material weight or structure, yet it has a heavy physicality and is a burden in a person’s everyday life.
The Debt Project is a photographic and multimedia exploration into the role that debt plays in our personal identities and social structures. I began the projectby asking subjects to sit for a formal portrait in their homes, surrounded by their belongings, in a way that’s reminiscent of the early Flemish portrait-painting tradition, and answer a series of questions on camera about their debt. I also asked them to handwrite the amount of debt they are in and tell the story behind it.
To see more of Brittany M. Powell’s photos, visit the Tikkun Daily Art Gallery.
The Debt Project

Credit: Brittany M. Powell


So far, I have shot thirty-two people in the Bay Area, New York City, Portland, and the Detroit metro areas.My goal is to photograph ninety-nine people across the US in order to bring people together to talk about and recontextualize an abstract, often shamed condition. It is my hope that by having a platform to discuss this issue, it will encourage the viewer and participants to question and reframe our perceptions of debt and how we contribute to its power and role in society today. Below is a compilation of the Bay Area participants and their stories.
I recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund completion costs of the project. Please feel free to donate if you like the project.Or if you are interested in participating in this project, please contact me at Brittany@brittanympowell.com
To see more of Brittany M. Powell’s photos, visit the Tikkun Daily Art Gallery.