Andy Cook is an accomplished photographer and was once employed by the Baltimore Jewish Times. After being laid off, he turned his well trained eye towards the recession and began snapping pictures and collecting stories of how ordinary Americans are weathering the current climate. Through his lens and his pen one gets a sense of the loss and resilience, the hope and fear that has become part of our daily conversations. What Andy has captured is the transformation this country is going through, frame by frame.
Andy Cook speaks:
Like so many good ideas, it came to me in a bar. I’d recently lost my job as a newspaper photographer, wasn’t having much luck freelancing, and was trying to figure out what to do next. I had a little money saved up and decided that it was a good time to take a road trip. But I’m not the kind of person to travel without a project.
Everywhere I looked, there was more news about jobs being lost, businesses closing, and people losing their homes. Most of this news came in the form of giant, abstract numbers that to my mind, lacked the tangibility of what me and so many other American’s were feeling. I thought it’d be a good idea to add some personal stories to the discussion.
So over four weeks in February and March, I drove around America trying to put a face on our downward-spiraling economy. I visited ten cities and interviewed people everywhere I went to find out how they were handling their own personal economic hardships. I photographed them all, and collected the stories and images on facesoftherecession.blogspot.com.
Everyone I met had a different story. Some were worse off than others, but across the board they all faced serious challenges. I came to realize too that every city was feeling it differently. Fort Myers, Florida for instance had so many empty new houses it felt like a ghost town. On the other hand, Madison, Wisconsin was bustling with new arrivals come to work for the growing health care industry there. Here in Baltimore, Maryland, it’s the newspapers who’ve all had to lay people off, reduce page count, or close entirely because of the decline in ad revenues.
Now that I’ve returned home to Baltimore, I’m focusing on the stories here, but with an eye on hitting the road again in the near future. This project is completely self-funded as of now, and I’m in the process of trying to pitch it to publications or foundations that have money for projects like this. With any luck, I’d like to be working on the second installment this summer. But of course with even more luck, there won’t be a recession to document by then!