Powerball jackpot exceeds $1 billion

When I left home for a road trip down south to photograph more stores for my We Sold A Winner project, I had no idea the Powerball jackpot would rise to such epic proportions — no one did. On Tuesday January 5, I was photographing in the town of Clemmons, North Carolina at a small store called Carleton’s Tangelwood:

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The sign on the building to the right of the two red chairs is advertising a jackpot of $400 million: the second largest Powerball in US lottery history (the largest was in May 2013 for $590.500,000 or $370,800,000 after taxes).

On Wednesday January 6th after no one won, I was photographing in Georgia and although the jackpot started at $700 million by the end of the day I was seeing billboards advertising a jackpot of $800 million:

Norcross lottery sign

By Friday, January 8th, I was down in Florida and the jackpot had soared to a whopping and unprecedented $900 million:

Jacksonville lottery sign_01

On Saturday, January 9th after no one played all the numbers again, the jackpot soared to $1.3 billion and is likely to climb higher as more and more people decide to purchase a ticket. Many billboards like this one in Jacksonville, Florida can not accommodate the amount and have resorted to advertising $999 million, since that is as high as the numbers will go:

Jax2sign

I have a lot of empathy for all the people buying tickets — some folks are shelling out a hundred dollars or more, dreaming about how winning all that money will solve all their problems. Most of the players I meet at small convenience stores around the country are hard-working family members who imagine how easy life might be if they didn’t have to stress about money. Let’s face it, unless you are part of that small 1%, these days, everyone seems to be worrying about money. Wages haven’t budged and in my case, as a teacher they have actually gone down — but meanwhile the price for food, utilities, internet, and clothing keeps going up. Thank goodness the price of gas has gone down, which is making this road trip way more possible (I also received a faculty fund for research grant from Simmons College, where I lead the photography department and I sold a print to the Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham Massachusetts).

I’ve gotten to know a lot of store owners and clerks around the country a the small shops where I photograph.  My heart really goes out to the owners in Georgia and Florida because neither state gives bonus commissions if a store sells a winning jackpot ticket. Sure, they get 5% on selling the tickets, but when clerks are so busy selling Powerball tickets, they have to hire other clerks to sell store merchandise where they are making a decent percentage. And then if they do sell a winner, well, let’s just hope the winner remembers to come back and share the wealth with the people in the community, working behind the counter.

I talked with a woman today in Jacksonville — a second generation to run the family business. Although her kids do work part-time in the store she admitted candidly that when she and her sister retire, they’ll probably sell the store since the business has just become too hard.

The drawing is Wednesday, the 13th. An auspicious number? I was also born on the 13th…hmm. Perhaps I should make that one of the 6 numbers I play when I buy my ticket. I mean I guess I’ll buy one and then dream.

A conversation with Chris Kemp from SSCS

Cassie's Corner Store, a family-run business in Canton, MA sold a winning $1,000,000 scratch ticket and received a $10,000 bonus commission.

Cassie’s Corner, located in Canton MA. They sold a winning million dollar scratch ticket in 2010 and received a bonus commission of $10,000.

Twitter is amazing. A week ago I connected with Chris Kemp over a couple of hat tip tweets. Chris works with SSCS, a company that provides software support for C-stores and gas stations across the country. We discovered a mutual admiration for many of the small mom and pop stores we’ve encountered, even though we come from really different places. Chris just published a lovely profile about my project on the company blog. I hope it will be read by all including some of the families I have yet to meet.

Slate Magazine, John Oliver and Me

Happy to share my interview with David Rosenberg, editor of Slates Behold Photo Blog for his feature on my We Sold A Winner Project. I really appreciate the way David took my comments and stories to weave together a fresh look at the small mom and pop stores selling winning tickets, which has been an abiding concern of the project from its beginning in 2009. The resilient people and their families I meet across the country continue to inspire and humble me.

During our conversation I mentioned how much I appreciates John Oliver’s scathing and bittersweet look at how state lotteries operate. I am glad David could weave this clip into the article:

Next stops (as soon as I raise the funds) are the west coast, specifically California and Oregon and then I hope to drive across the south with a special focus on Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

International focus on convenience stores

Voyeur Magazine published by Virgin Airlines Australia has an insightful feature on convenience stores world -wide: small shops that play a valuable role in communities across the globe from America to Sweden. I am thrilled that my photographs and especially my friend Amar is representing the USA. Amar’s shop is located in Teele Square, in Somerville MA and he works long hours seven days a week. Spend a little time in Amar’s store and it’s easy to see he knows everyone who walks through his door, including related family members. Emma Ventura writes “nowhere does the convenience store and its cheerful rows of lollies, chocolates and treats offering instant gratification seem more at home than in America, the original fast food nation.” Well I prefer to think about many of the vendors I meet as continuing perpetrators of community convenience in search of attaining some financial security for themselves and family. You may remember that as one version of the American dream, which goes far beyond fast food. Anyway, here is the article and hopefully it brings more attention to the ongoing We Sold A Winner project.

profile conv st

JULY 2014_CON STORE-1

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conv store sweden

 

 

 

Project live on Feature Shoot

Thank you to Pelle Cass and the folks at Feature Shoot for profiling my We Sold A Winner project today. It’s an honor to be in such great company with so many talented photographers, such as Jennifer McClure, Michael Kenna, Joel Meyerowitz,and Eugenia Maximova. Check it out and help spread the word by liking and sharing

http://www.featureshoot.com/2014/07/wonderland-of-dough-photos-of-american-convenience-stores-that-have-sold-million-dollar-lottery-tickets/

 

My nominations for the Top 10 exhibitions of 2013

Before we herald in the new year here is my list for the best 10 exhibitions of 2013. These are shows that aroused my senses and changed the way I look at and experience the world. I see so much art and so many exhibits that I’ve really come to appreciate and treasure the few shows that enliven my place in this crazy, complicated world.

1 – LaToya Ruby Frazier:

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Grandma Ruby and Me (2005)

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Fifth-Avenue Tavern and UPMC Braddock Hospital On Braddock Avenue (2011)

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Shadow (form the Momme Portrait series), 2008

Represented in two exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum March 22 – August 11, 2013 and the ICA Boston, November 13 – March 2014, Frazier manages to portray startling shifts in socioeconomic and class that are unfolding all across America especially in de-industrialized cities like Braddock PA (home of Andrew Carnegie’s first steel mill), where all her work emanates from. By documenting her close relationship with her mother, Grandma Ruby (1925-2009) and the surrounding town, Frazier’s work offers an unflinching honest and painful portrait that goes way beyond the usual headlines.

2 – She Who Tells A Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World

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Boushra Almutawakel, Mother, daughter, doll series (2011)

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Newsha Tavakolian, Dont forget this is not you (2010)

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Gohar Dashti, untitled (2008)

On view at the MFA, Boston from August 27 – January 12, 2013 assistant curator of photographs Kristen Gersh assembled a group of female artists who represent “the strongest photography coming out of this part of the world” and the evidence was both eye-opening and abundant in the 100 photographs and two videos on view. The best part of this exquisite exhibit for me was being introduced to so many new artists, who I otherwise would not know about.

3 – James Turrell, Guggenheim Museum June 21 – September 25, 2013

Turrel_01

Turrell_02

A sublime and transformative experience. I loved having to slow down, be patient and wait for the magic of his light experiences to be revealed. These images convey only a fraction of the accompanying sensations one feels in their presence.

4 – Magritte, MOMA, September 28, 2013 – January 12, 2014

Clairvoyance

La Clairvoyance (1936)

Magritte

Le Portrait (1935)

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La Duree Poignardee (Time Transfixed) 1938

The master of illusion and the unconscious – no one does it better than Magritte and this collection was a pure delight of painting skills and ideas. From the first painting to the last in the exhibit I was astonished to learn Magritte made all of them in just 12 years. A humbling realization to say the least. The exhibit also included sketches, photographs and letters.

5 – A Different Kind of Order: The ICP Triennial, May 17 – September 22, 2013

Every three years the International Center for Photography in NYC brings together a group of artists creating the most game-changing photography. This year was by far the best collection of works yet. Assembled by Kristen Lubben, Christopher Phillips, Carol Squiers, and Joanna Lehan. Stand-outs included Rabih Mroue’s The Pixelated Revolution: a video installation that shockingly details how Syrian protestors are using smart phones and social media to broadcast their own deaths in real time.

rabih Mroue

Gideon Mendel’s portraits of people around the world whose livelihoods and way of life are threatened by floods. Mendel photographs their continuing existence amidst the flood waters,  long after the newspaper headlines have receded.

Gideon Mendel          Gideon Mendel_02

Mishka Henner brings a twist to aerial photographs of the Dutch Landscape by incorporating the colored pixelation google uses to blot out areas deemed vital to national security.

MH-DutchLandscapes-Staphorst Ammunition Depot_3_900

6 – Kerry James Marshall, in the tower at the National Gallery of Art

In his first solo exhibition in Washington D.C., on view June 28- December 8, 2013, Marshall showed 10 paintings and 20 works on paper that evoke the Middle Passage of slave ships between West Africa and North America, and the themes of immigration, class mobility, and aspiration central to American life. A visual, conceptual and technical tour-de-force.

Great America (1994)

Great America (1994)

Bang (1994)

Bang (1994)

7 – We Shall: Photographs by Paul D’Amato, on view at the DePaul Art Museum in Chicago, September 12 through November 24, 2013

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For 20 years Paul D’Amato photographed the everyday lives of ordinary people living in Chicago’s west-side neighborhood. This exhibit brought together portraits, interiors, graffiti, and street scenes presenting a vivid and poignant tribute to resilience and hope. A very moving photography exhibit and I was so glad to have been in Chicago when this show was on view.

8 – Thomas Hirschorn’s Gramschi Monument, on view in the South Bronx NY from July 15 – September 15, 2013

A participatory experiment created in collaboration with the people of this south bronx housing complex. I ventured up on a sweltering summer day and found a sprawling hodge-podge of activities. Community radio station, cafe, library and impromptu lecture series, all run and staffed by members of the surrounding community and volunteers. Everything, including a bridge between craft workshops and library was built with found and donated materials. At the end of the installation’s run, all equipment and materials will be gifted out to the community . I give Hirschorn high marks for continuing to bring together such an amalgam of social, art, economic and philosophical ideas.

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Hirschorn_02

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9 – Lori Nix, Clamp Art, NYC, October 17 – November 16, 2013

For sheer inventiveness and craft, Nix creates these extraordinary tableaux in her studio. This group took on a decidedly apocalyptic view of NYC that were both humorous and disturbing.

Subway

Subway

Shoe Store

Shoe Store

Chinese Take-Out

Chinese Take-Out

10 – This Will Have Been: Art, Love and Politics in the 1980s. On view at the ICA Boston from November 15 2012 – March 13, 2013 

Organized by Helen Molesworth, this exhibit was worth several visits to get the full flavor of this tumultuous decade. From the rise in aids activism to the fall of the Berlin Wall,  the artists presented continue to influence contemporary art praxis. The exhibition was organized into four sections. I’ve included a tiny sampling (and I mean tiny) of the amazing breadth of work that was on view. This was truly a curatorial masterpiece.

part 1 -The End is Near

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Candy Jernigan, Found Dope Part 11 (1986)

part 2 – Democracy

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Artist Collective General Idea

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Hans Haacke, Oil Painting (Homage to Marcel Broodthaers)

part 3 – Gender Trouble

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Jimmy Durham self portrait (1986)

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Cindy Sherman, Untitled #153 (1985)

part 4 – Desire and Longing

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Deborah Bright, Dream Girls (1989-1990)

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Felix Gonzales-Torres, Untitled (perfect Lovers) 1987-1990

Seems fitting to end with an image of clocks made by one of my favorite artists and someone who I turn to whenever I need to find inspiration and new reasons to believe.

May the coming year bring all of us more challenging art and continued hope.

Peace,

Edie

We Sold A Winner featured on Business Insider

It’s been a busy few months. After several road trips to Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Michigan with stops along the way in New Jersey, New York and Delaware, my lottery economies project got a big boost with a feature on Business Insider magazine. The article received over 6500 hits and I fielded inquiries from people as far away as Australia. Here is one of the photographs I made picturing the little known phenomenon of the unclaimed winning ticket

Playland Market, Rye NY

Over the last few years as I’ve been following lottery stories every day (thanks to google alert), I have seen a rise in the number of stories across the country concerning winning tickets expiring. Depending on the state a winner has from 182 days to 1 year to claim their winnings. Sometimes (I think), when a player doesn’t win the top prize they might not check to see if their ticket is still worth a lesser amount. At this store a player matched enough of the Powerball numbers to win $1,000,000. Although not close to the winning jackpot of $329 million, it’s still a significant sum. Can it be players get so used to NOT winning that their tickets get stuffed and forgotten in glove compartments? Or ruined in the laundry? The owner of this store even posted hand written signs encouraging his customers to carefully check through their old tickets, but on August 26, 2013, this million dollar winning ticket expired.

So what happens to the money? Depending on the state (each state has different rules on this) the money either goes back into the lottery’s operating budget or is allocated toward its designated community service.

More new photographs can be found on my totally revamped website.

Happy fall.