The Julie Project by Darcy Padilla, documentary photographer – persistent poverty in the US

January 26, 2011 at 5:45 pm 2 comments

The Julie Project - a labour of love

By Sophie Byrne

Darcy Padilla, a San Francisco-based documentary photographer, began The Julie Project 18 years ago, in 1993. The artist has laid bare the troubled life of Julie Baird – who she met in the lobby of a hotel in San Francisco. Julie was “barefoot, pants unzipped, and an eight-day-old infant in her arms”. Through photographs, newspapers clippings, phone calls and journal entries Padilla has captured 18 years of grinding poverty and a personal tragedy of multiple homes, Aids, drug abuse, destructive relationships, poverty, births, deaths, loss and reunion.

The moments captured inculde the below phonecall:

“Called Julie on November 7, 1999.

Julie: “Hello. Don’t bother coming over. They
relinquished my parental rights. My court date was the 3rd
and they didn’t tell me. No notice. No letter. My court date
was today and I called for the time and they told me that
they relinquished my parental rights on the 3rd. Do you
know what relinquish my parental rights means–they are
putting my kids up for adoption.”

Two days later Julie went into labor with her third child.”

This labour of love is a brutal portrayal of life on the fringes of American society, and is simultaneously shocking and touching. Padilla is motivated by the desire to explore the social issue that blight what she describes as the ‘permanent poor’ in America. The relationship between the two women continued until Julie’s recent death. It is definitely worth having a browse of The Julie Project when you have a few quiet moments.

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Entry filed under: Just for fun.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The Innovation Unit  |  January 27, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Wow. These look like they could have been taken during the depression. It’s hard to believe the photos of Julie in Alaska were taken last year. What a tragic story, I hope Julie’s children have a better life, but with social mobility figures in the US all evidence points to the contrary. At least it seems she has spared them the abusive childhood she had.

    Reply
  • 2. alecpatton  |  January 28, 2011 at 10:26 am

    This is a really upsetting, disturbing piece (Darcy Padilla’s, not the post), and it’s a reminder both of how weird and how important art can be. I can’t imagine having a friend whose despair and attempts to turn things around I document with photographs when we meet, but I’m glad that Padilla could do this – because what she’s created isn’t something you could achieve any other way.

    This is a dubious connection, but the phrase ‘permanent poor’ reminds me of a Malcolm Gladwell piece from 2006 that pointed out that there are very few ‘long-term homeless’ people in most cities, and among that group, many of them go through repeated rehab and support programmes, but are never able to look after themselves once the supports are removed. Gladwell focuses on the case of Murray Barr, a homeless man in Reno Nevada who eventually died in the street after a lifetime of drug- and alcohol-related medical problems. Gladwell writes that two police officers traced his medical history and found that

    if you totted up all his hospital bills for the ten years that he had been on the streets—as well as substance-abuse-treatment costs, doctors’ fees, and other expenses—Murray Barr probably ran up a medical bill as large as anyone in the state of Nevada.

    ‘It cost us one million dollars not to do something about Murray,’ O’Bryan said.

    You can read the full article here: http://www.gladwell.com/2006/2006_02_13_a_murray.html

    Reply

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