PDN Photo of the Day

Visualizing the Crisis in American Classrooms

This week, Guardian US launched a Teacher Takeover in which teachers are guest-editing the paper to highlight the crises in American classrooms and the recent rise in teacher activism. The teachers commissioned stories and photography projects, and they also wrote first person essays and opinion pieces on the issues at heart. The three day project, which ends today, addresses the effects of chronically underfunded schools and low teacher pay.

To visualize how teachers struggle with their small salaries, the Guardian assigned Peter Rad to photograph teachers who survive by taking on a second job. According to The Guardian, “one in five American teachers now works a second job on top of full-time teaching.” The resulting photo essay, “How I Survive: American Teachers and their Second Jobs,” captures what a few teachers from Massachusetts, Texas, and Oklahoma do when they leave the classroom.

Guardian US deputy editor Jane Spencer told PDN in an email that she assigned Rad to this story because of his ability to “straddle the worlds of documentary and artistic photography to create bold, arresting images that would hold people’s attention and draw them into the story of how teachers struggle in America.” Spencer added that, “Peter has a unique capacity to make ordinary scenes—be it driving an Uber or working in a stockroom—feel otherworldly with his use of light.”

The Guardian’s data shows that readers have spent an unusually long time with this essay, indicating they’re lingering on the images.

Rad, an artist and commercial photographer based in New York, writes in his artist statement that he “directs his characters and carefully manipulates environments to create images that retain a realist honesty in their documentation.” In the case of the Guardian assignment, the dramatic lighting helps convey the physical and emotional toll of working two jobs.

“How I Survive: American Teachers and their Second Jobs”
Photographed by Peter Rad
Assigned by Jane Spencer
Published in Guardian US
September 5, 2018

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