Many Americans are crippled by debt as the cost of daily living in urban centers becomes essentially untenable. Despite the prevalence of these financial burdens, the subject of money remains taboo. Photographer Brittany Powell, author Helaine Olen, and Refinery29’s Lindsey Stanberry have cracked open money talk with their work on the Debt Project, the United States of Debt, and the Money Diaries, respectively. These deeply personal, nearly confessional initiatives chronicle spending, debt, and the unfettered realities of “making it work” in America today.

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Brittany M. Powell is a photographic artist based in San Francisco, CA and Montpelier, Vermont. Her work has been published internationally, exhibited across the US, and the recipient of several photography awards. For the past four years, she has focused on completing the Debt Project, an ongoing body of work photographing and interviewing 99 people across the US about their relationship to debt. She hopes that by having a platform to discuss this issue, it will encourage viewers and participants to question and reframe their perception of debt and how we contribute to its power, stigma, and role within our social structure.

Helaine Olen is an expert on money and society with a deep understanding of public policy. She writes, speaks, and consults on issues including Social Security, retirement, healthcare, student loans, and women’s financial issues. Olen has appeared on the Daily Show, C-Span, the BBC, MSNBC, All Things Considered, and more to share her forward-thinking commentary on topical consumer financial issues. Author of the bestselling book Pound Foolish: Exposing The Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry and co-author of The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to be So Complicated, Olen’s writing is regularly featured in publications including the New York Times, Reuters, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Salon, Inc. and more. She was the 2016 SABEW Personal Finance Medium Winner.

Olen has earned a number of fellowships and grants, including the National Press Foundation’s Retirement Issues Program, Columbia University Age Boom Academy, and the New York Times Company Foundation Fellowship. She earned her BA at Smith College and MA in Journalism at the University of Minnesota.

As work and money director at Refinery29, Lindsey Stanberry provides millennial women with the smart, entertaining financial and career advice they deserve. She developed her passion for these topics after her story “How I Saved $100,000 to Buy an Apartment” received a massive response from Refinery29 readers. In 2015, she became Refinery29's first work and money editor, covering everything from retirement funds and paid family leave to the inspiring female entrepreneurs she met in Haiti while interviewing Chelsea Clinton. She lives in Brooklyn with her frugal husband and one-year-old son.

TOP IMAGE: Brittany M. Powell, Debt Portrait #8, Oakland, CA, 2013.