Four Iowans get very honest about their debt


When a colleague showed me Brittany M. Powell's photography project, I was riveted. She takes powerful portraits of people struggling with personal debt and then has them explain it—its root causes, how it weighs, what it means—in deeply personal handwritten notes that go with each picture.

As we planned Fusion's coverage of Iowa, for the Brown & Black Forum and Monday's caucuses, we dispatched Brittany to the Hawkeye State to get inside the lives of people who live there, show us their realities.


The four you'll meet below, Lauren, Amber, An, and Lisa, offer a look into how everyday Iowans deal with debt—as one puts it, "a spiral that keeps going despite my efforts to improve it." At a moment when the political media circus is offering a flyover view of the state, these are intimate looks at intimate lives, fears, and hopes.

For more of Brittany's work, visit

Lisa Steenhoek photographed in her home.
Brittany M. Powell.

An C photographed at home.
Brittany M. Powell

Amber Zenor photographed in her home.
Brittany M. Powell

Hillary Frey is a reluctant news junkie and the director of global news operations at Fusion. In a past life, she was a culture and books editor. She's also a karaoke junkie.

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