[September 22, 2023 | Cambridge, MA]—Today, the Commission on Reimagining Our Economy, at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, issued a photojournal—Faces of America: Getting By in Our Economy—as part of its work to ensure that the American people and their well-being at the center of discussions the economy.
The Commission is chaired by Katherine Cramer (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Ann Fudge (Young & Rubicam Brands), and Nicholas Lemann (Columbia Journalism School), and includes business leaders, community and faith leaders, journalists, scholars and artists from around the country and across the political spectrum.
The photojournal brings together the work of photographers embedded in four communities and the words of participants from 31 listening sessions across the country. The images and words illuminate the challenges Americans face and their resilience in the face of these challenges. This publication is the first of its kind in the Academy’s 243-year history.
Academy President David Oxtoby explained the importance of Faces of America: Getting By in Our Economy when he stated “the story of the economy cannot only be told with charts, graphs, and data. The economy is about people, and hearing from them helps to illustrate the need for a fairer and more resilient economy.” The Commission’s policy recommendations, along with a metric dashboard to measure American well-being at the county level, will be released later this fall.
The photographers worked under the direction of Nina Berman (Columbia Journalism School), who provided guidance for their fieldwork and helped curate the images submitted to the Academy. Each photographer was assigned a single location that falls around the national median income and which they visited multiple times between July and September 2022.
Photographer Cindy Elizabeth—Third Ward, Houston, Texas
Photographer Caroline Gutman—Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Photographer Maen Hammad—Dearborn, Michigan
Photographer Adam Perez—Tulare County, California
Writer and actress Anna Deavere Smith, who is a member of the Commission, wrote the foreword and references past efforts that brought the faces of Americans to the nation, particularly the iconic photographs of the Great Depression taken by Farm Security Administration photographers Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Gordon Parks. She writes that in this publication “The images are intriguing, often beautiful. Even though the sentiments evoked by the images and words throughout the book are not America the beautiful for spacious skies, viewers will find themselves engaged page after page.” Looking to the future, she notes that these photographs—taken at bus stops, diners, and doorsteps—are vital for reimagining what the economy could look like.
The Commission’s final report will be released in November 2023.