Photographing the wage gap over time

Jim Goldberg, photographer of "Rich and Poor", says he was interested in looking at the ways people spoke about wealth and poverty.

"I wanted to open up the discussion and ask interesting questions about how discussions of wealth and poverty are framed," says Goldberg. "And look at the language that is used to describe them, and who gets to use that language."

His collection of photographs compares two economic classes of San Francisco. Each photograph is accompanied by comments written by the subjects themselves.  

As Goldberg’s work became more known, he ran into many of the wealthy people he photographed at museums or openings. Their worlds began to coincide. The poor, however, usually disappeared over time.

"As much as I tried to be present in their lives, they would have to move on, or go to prison or die," says Goldberg. "Not to be dramatic, but the life of the poor is somewhat dramatic in that sense. It’s an interesting contradiction."

Goldberg says his beat has changed since he started taking pictures decades ago. He says yesterday's wealthy would have looked poor today.

"It’s as if the income gap has grown exponentially between the wealthy and the poor, I think the wealthy now are able to exhibit their wealth in ways that the wealthy of the past could not."

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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