About the Project

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 46 million Americans live below the poverty line, that’s the highest number since they started publishing poverty figures more than five decades ago. And some economists and experts predict that number is rising. I traveled in the summer of 2011 with award-winning Danish photographer Joakim Eskildsen on an assignment for TIME Magazine to California, South Dakota, Louisiana and New York to document the lives of the people behind the statistics. We collected hundreds of photos and personal stories of people struggling to make ends meet–the unemployed, the homeless, the working poor. The overwhelming response from Joakim’s photo essay on TIME.com prompted us to expand the scope of the work by producing a book and our own multimedia website, including more photos, stories and the voices of people we interviewed.

The photographic content and field reporting was originally done for TIME Magazine and TIME.com. Special thanks to TIME director of photography Kira Pollack and the TIME photo department.


Natasha Del Toro

Natasha Del Toro is the executive producer of the American Realities website. In addition to writing, reporting and recording all of the audio interviews in the field, she developed the vision, hired the team and launched the Kickstarter campaign to fund the project. Del Toro is a freelance multimedia journalist who has worked on staff at TIME.com and has produced short documentaries and articles for PBS Frontline World, PBS World Compass, The Daily, Current TV, Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times, as well as working on a New York Times/PBS Frontline co-production. She currently hosts a national television program on PBS World Channel called America Reframed featuring documentaries and interviews with filmmakers and stakeholders about the changing face of the nation. She is also a 2012-2013 Fulbright award recipient for a journalistic project in Colombia on sustainable development and human rights. Follow her on Twitter: @ndeltoro.

Joakim Eskildsen

Joakim Eskildsen was born in Copenhagen in 1971 where he trained with the Royal Court photographer Rigmor Mydtskov. In 1994, he moved to Finland to learn the craft of photographic bookmaking with Pentti Sammallahti at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, graduating with an MA degree in photography in 1998. His publications include “Nordic Signs” (1995), “Bluetide” (1997), “iChickenMoon” (1999), which was awarded Best Foreign Title of 2000 in the Photo-Eye Books & Prints Annual Awards, and the portfolio “al-Madina” (2002), which was made in collaboration with Kristoffer Albrecht and Pentti Sammallahti, and, most recently, "The Roma Jounreys" (Steidl Publishers 2007). "American Realities" will be published by Steidl. See more of his work at joakimeskilden.com

Additional Credits

Sarah P. Reynolds

Audio Producer

Sarah is a radio producer, multimedia storyteller and investigator. She produces and reports for national public radio and her stories have appeared on programs such as NPR's All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and Studio 360 and several local public radio stations around the country. Her award winning investigative and reporting work covers subjects as diverse as the housing crisis, hate crimes and migrant workers, some of which has culminated in a series of reports for national organizations working to change policy. www.sarahpreynolds.com Twitter:@sarahpreynolds

Laura E. Bult

Audio Producer

Laura Bult is an audio producer and storyteller. Her background is in community and NPR member stations as well as an audio production internship with StoryCorps in Brooklyn.

Frederik Joelving

Copywriting Editor

Frederik Joelving is a journalist based in Copenhagen.

Cia Rinne

Copywriting Editor

Cia Rinne is a poet based in Berlin. Her publications include zaroum (2001), the online-work archives zaroum (Afsnit P 2008), the book notes for soloists (OEI Editör 2009), and the sound work sounds for soloists (with Sebastian Eskildsen 2012). Cia has also been working on different documentary projects together with Joakim Eskildsen; their most recent common publication is a book on the Roma communities of different countries (The Roma Journeys, Steidl 2007).

Candida Haynes


Founder of Natasha's Court, a career development start-up. New
generation app developer / designer. Global citizen. Educator. Voting rights & data privacy advocate.

Hanifa Harris

Researcher and Production Coordinator

Alyson Krueger

Researcher and Production Coordinator

Ida C. Benedetto

Web Consultant

Ida Benedetto is media strategist and producer. She makes games, immersive experiences and websites. Her game design company Antidote creates playful experiences for understanding complex realities. Her fringe experience design collaboration Wandelust brings people to places they shouldn't be. Ida loves to code. www.uncommonplaces.com Twitter: @idamantium

Scott Anger

Consultant and Vision

Scott Anger is the managing director of The Lost Bird Project, an art-based environmental non-profit headquartered in New York. He is an award-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker and former director of video at The Los Angeles Times.

Gaelen Green

Consultant and Vision

Frances Riddle

Translations and transcriptions

Frances Riddle is a Spanish to English translator and writer based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Samples of her work can be found at http://www.literatilanguageservices.org/.

Thank You

Special Contributors

Richard Marks and Amy Haines
Jason Busto
Michaele Sosinski
Miguel and Natasha Del Toro
Jonathan Brill
Frederik Joelving
The Mayer Foundation

Special Thanks

Michael Deibert
Jeremy Robins
Joe Cecchini
Patricia Hallstein
Jim Fields
Dan Fagin
Adrienne Day
Nikki Treadwell
Jakob Lund
Kelly Creedon
Jenna Weiss-Berman
Anna Sale
Richard Rubin
Erin Davis
Vivian Cabral
Alisa Solomon
Bonnie McCay Merritt
Peter Andersen
Walter Alarkon
Ellan Bethia Otero
Jigar Mehta & Yasmin Elayat
Josh Gray
Tero Paananen
Jake Price
Heather Akou
Ines Flores Forastieri de Rodriguez
Jonathan Schienberg
Nina Chaudry
Greg Hochmuth
Kristin Nienhuis
Virginia Cahill
Sharon Tyson
Eve Bailey
Maria F. Pelegrina
Drury MacKenzie
Conny Jensen
Mendy Heaps
Lischka Cuin
Johnny and Mara Cuin
Jessica Seamans
Theresa Loong
Kai Johnson
Wendy Simmons
Adela Del Toro
Danielle Do
Rhiannon Kaye
Karen Bult
Debi Joyce
James Blevins
Moises Velasquez-Manoff
Eileen 'Norris' Doherty
Heather Haber
Bill Thomas
Lara Khouri
Arlene Moretz
Rasmus Lohals
Christie Verola
Ian Vollmer
Joseph DiCrescenzo
Carmen Carron
Joseph Rodriguez
Sharon Berkowitz
Suzy Barros
Sabah Fakhoury
Helene Ly
Adela Drobny
Tony Stefan
Hillary Frank Aubin
Lisa Whiteman
Juan Iturregui
Ivan Oransky
Nancy Berg
David Cross
Daniel Fernandez
Shelly Baumann
Betsy D’Jamoos
Roberta Fernandez
Eric Cantor
Bruce Hadley
Michel Poklepovic
Miguel, Christine, Diego and Joaquin Del Toro
Heather Douglas
Mark Bult
Colleen Parent
Howard Pierce
Terri Mosley
Martin Borland
Don Perl
Serena Hedison
Ane Riis Svendsen
The Yates Family
Mara Altman
Miguel A. and Jossira Del Toro-Maldonado
Ginny and Josh Turnpaugh
Virginia and Jose Del Toro
Virginia Ramirez
Rosario Del Toro
Jose Guillermo Robles-Navarro
Rebecca Navarro

General Acknowledgements

Laurie Williams
Cristy Michel
Gretchen Wiese
Alice Smeets
Robert M Barr
Russet Coviello
Mariana Keller
Kirk Love
Maura McGovern
Roger Cunard
Iana Aranda
Greg Glofak
Julie Leibach
Carrie Boyd
Meme Fehmers
Katelyn Kelly
Barbara Connolly
Sachi Cunningham
Yves Roy & Wacky Ballerina
Nancy Roberts
Jessica Jaeger
Rachel Ehrenberg
Ratesh Chopra
Joseph Lynch
Natalie Wainwright
Kora Bongen
Kelsey Erwin
Tara Derr Webb
Vincent DeCesare
Morna McDermott