As of 2019, 34 million people have been living in poverty. Although many think that poverty revolves around the lack of money, it is much more than that. It is a question of meeting the human basic needs: food, water, clothing, shelter.
Danish photographer, Joakim Eskidsen captures the hardships that individuals living in the United States face in regards to poverty.
Born in Copenhagen in 1971, Eskidsen trained with the Royal Court photographer, Rigmor Mydtskov, at a young age. He later went on to complete a masters of arts degree in photography at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Helsinki, Finland in 1998. With his passion for social and political themes, he constantly seeks to understand the world in which he lives.
Being one of the most influential photographers, he is able to capture a deeper meaning of the story with his subjects. The director of photography at Time magazine was impressed by his book, The Roma Journeys (2007), and in 2011 she commissioned him to capture poor communities across different states in America over a seven month period. The project was made in hopes of telling their side of the story, opening the eyes of the public to their struggles, and relating to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for No Poverty.
Eskildsen was accompanied by journalist Natasha del Toro, capturing hundreds of photographs and personal stories of those who were struggling to survive in the place they call “the land of opportunities”. Many of these indivduals were unemployed, homeless, disabled veterans, mentally ill, immigrants, single mothers, Native Americans, drug addicts, prostitutes, and people who’d lost everything during natural disasters — people who have been failed by the system.
Eskildsen’s work reveals how the concept of the American Dream overshadows the reality that many people live in poverty despite the fact that the United States does not appear to be a developing country.
“The kind of poverty that so many people in the US face is one of poor food, poor health, poor culture, poor living circumstances, but it is not necessarily that easy to spot,” he explains in an interview with On Art and Aesthetics. “You can have a family with a huge TV, air conditioner, a microwave, but no money for food. All they own is borrowed and any small incident, the lack of health insurance, can collapse it all.”
Eskildsen’s photographs have been shown all around the world in exhibitions, galleries, museums and art fairs. Recently, he has taken on editorial assignments for New York Times Magazine, Time Magazine, and Mare. Due to the unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the social and economic aspects have left many individuals at risk of poverty. The non-profit organization World Vision focuses on working in the most under-served and distressed communities to provide them with the necessary resources to survive. Check out their organization here.