Outside the Dream: Child Poverty in America
Project info

Outside the Dream: Child Poverty in America focuses attention on the problems of poor children in America who numbered over 13 million in 1985, when most of these photograp[hs were taken. Children constitute one half of all poor people in America. Millions of children go to bed hungry; receive inadequate nutrition and medical care; live in sub-standard housing, or have no home at all.

The book was published by Aperture in 1991.

From the book Preface:

America is a dream.

We are a nation created by our collective dreams. Our founding fathers dreamt of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. My grand-parents came to this country to fulfill their dream religious freedom. Martin Luther King had a dream of freedom. Others dreamt of material success, a better life. Millions continue migrating to our shores with their dreams and aspirations because America continues to be the place where dreams come true.

Yet within our borders a generation of American children exist outside the dream. They have been left behind in poverty and despair. It is as if they are not part of this great country, not part of the American dream. There are more than 12 million American children living in poverty. They constitute one half of all poor people in America. Today, the poor are children. And their numbers are growing.

I met many children on my travels. I talked with "babies" who had babies themselves. I photographed the offspring of the "working poor" and the unemployed. I looked through the camera at youth in urban ghettos. I lived with homeless kids in parks and beaches. I observed college-bound teenagers studying by lantern and siblings protecting and parenting each other. I documented youngsters coping with social problems, unexpected emergencies and just plain bad luck. I witnessed stress, violence and frustration; but also love, hope and extraordinary courage.

It is never easy seeing pain, it made me feel sad and often powerless to witness the self-destructive and dangerous acts thousands of our young people commit every day. These were hard to photograsph, as they must be difficult for you to view in this book. But we must look and see, we can not ignore the plight of one-fifth of our heirs if we are to stop the destruction of a generation of children.

The youths pictured here, like those in the famous FSA photographs from The Great Depression will continue to be remembered for years to come. And like their 1930 counterparts, history may decide to view them as heroic. These are good kids. They are likeable. They have dreams and hopes. Perhaps this book will help us allow these children to become part of the American dream.