Rough draft for First Person America: In These Hard Times
(can't use more than 100 words of narrative per photograph)

I have been a self employed contractor for the past twenty years; designing and building kitchens and bathrooms. My business revenue dropped considerably starting in late 2007 and continued to decline throughout 2008. In the past twenty years I had seen several economic downturns, but always managed to make it through the down cycle. This recent recession was quite different, and every contractor I know was in the same situation. People just stopped spending money on non essential home improvements. Towards the end of 2008 I was seriously considering a career change or a part time job.

In January 2009 I was lucky enough to find a part time job as a Lab Courier for a major hospital. My job is to drive around picking up specimens and cultures and bring them back to the lab. Decent pay, stress free, hours that allow me to continue running my own business, and a great work environment. I tell people I found the perfect part time job. The current recession continues to negatively affect my finances, but this part time job has really helped to stabilize my cash flow.

I have had to endure the snickers and laughter of a few friends when I explain that essentially what I do every afternoon is drive around picking up urine, feces, and blood samples from doctor’s offices and nursing homes. In recent weeks I have hand delivered quite a few cultures to be tested for the Swine Flu
Virus. I have learned to more or less ignore what I carry around in my car, although I am now a fanatical user of hand sanitizer.

I spend about four or five hours in my car every afternoon driving approximately 60 miles each day. My route changes from day to day, but more or less follows a general circular pattern around the Philadelphia suburbs. What a wonderful opportunity for a photographer! I am able to spend my afternoons observing the constantly changing landscapes along my route. I bring my camera bag with me every day just in case a photograph presents itself.

One of the most striking images I see every day is the overwhelming number of empty retail buildings. For Rent and For Lease signs seem to be everywhere I look. So many automobile dealerships have closed down. Each of the images in this series are of buildings I pass by every day on my route. The impact of the current recession is clearly evident along every mile I drive. What is not as obvious is the fact that each of these empty buildings represents dozens or hundreds of lost jobs. People who are out there fighting for economic survival.

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First Person America: In These Hard Times
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