In the July 1983 issue of Life magazine, writer Cheryl McCall and photographer Mary Ellen Mark published “Streets of the Lost,” an in-depth article and photo essay on Seattle street kids. In the piece, McCall and Mark tell the story of a group of homeless and runaway teens—Tina, a 13-year-old prostitute with dreams of diamonds and furs; Rat and Mike, 16-year-olds who eat from dumpsters; and Dewayne, a 16-year-old boy who hanged himself in a juvenile facility when faced with the prospect of returning to the streets. It’s uneasy subject matter, and a staggering portrait of what life without a stable home can look like.  Read more…

In the annals of American journalism, the Cleveland Press was a long-running and influential daily newspaper known for its attention to working class issues. As a result, many of the newspaper’s articles dug deep in the muck of city business—from sanitation strikes and public transit problems, to urban renewal backlash and pollution control. Read more…

To mark the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, the New York Times has launched a new series dubbed “Caught in Poverty.” For the inaugural article in the series, journalist Trip Gabriel and photographer Travis Dove visited McDowell County, “the poorest in West Virginia…emblematic of entrenched American poverty for more than a half-century.” On visiting McDowell County, what Gabriel and Dove discovered was a place in much the same state as it was before the government intervened with the intent of improving the quality of life some 50 years ago: Read more…

Something reminded me of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology this morning. It was probably my ever-present and rather burdensome obsession with death (which might be funny if it weren’t so true). Anyhow, if you’ve never read the book, it’s a fascinating collection of short poems that narrate the epitaphs of the residents of a fictional small town called Spoon River — residents with names like Jeduthan Hawley, Plymouth Rock Joe, Lydia Puckett, and Minerva Jones. An excerpt from “The Hill,” Spoon River‘s opening poem, gives a good sense of Masters’ take on small town America:

Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom and Charley,
The weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the boozer, the fighter?
All, all are sleeping on the hill.
One passed in a fever,
One was burned in a mine,
One was killed in a brawl,
One died in a jail,
One fell from a bridge toiling for children and wife—
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
Where are Ella, Kate, Mag, Lizzie and Edith,
The tender heart, the simple soul, the loud, the proud, the happy one?—
All, all are sleeping on the hill.
One died in shameful child-birth,
One of a thwarted love,
One at the hands of a brute in a brothel,
One of a broken pride, in the search for heart’s desire;
One after life in far-away London and Paris
Was brought to her little space by Ella and Kate and Mag—
All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.

As you can see, Masters’ prose is lyrical and incredibly moving. He also manages to weave dense and often complex narratives into each epitaph. While thinking about Masters’ book this morning, I discovered that someone went to the trouble of creating an online edition. So if you’ve never read Spoon River, it’s worth your time.

(Illustration: Giovanni Robustelli. Caption: Spoon River, Edgar Lee Masters, Spazio Papel, Milano 2012.)

I experienced an odd moment of synchronicity this morning. After reading “Death Stares,” Tamara Kneese’s essay for The New Inquiry that examines selfies, narcissism, and death in the digital age, I then came across this passage from photographer Mike Mandel’s Myself: Timed Exposures, published in 1971: Read more…