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Revisiting Eugene Richards’s Sweeping Portrait of Life Below the Poverty Line

Thirty years ago, when Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, commissioned the photojournalist Eugene Richards to travel through fourteen American cities and towns to document poverty, he approached the project with the meticulousness of a policy analyst. “We read news articles and sociology texts, studied maps and statistics charts, searching for ways to address the issues of hunger, homelessness, and unemployment,” Richards, who had previously worked as a civil-rights activist, and had photographed the Arkansas Delta and the neighborhood of Dorchester, Boston, where he grew up, wrote in the foreword to the resulting book, the seminal “Below the Line: Living Poor in America.
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