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After Layoffs, More Time to Focus on Art

At the end of last year, Joe Claus was working at a small electronics company in Silicon Valley doing photography, marketing and design. And then he got laid off. “I was pissed,” he said. But there was an unforeseen upside to his loss. No longer stuck behind a desk all day, he devoted more time to his photography.

Claus has turned the personal conflict of unemployment into the basis of his artistic practice, photographing people who have lost jobs in the recession. He asks them to close their eyes as he gets closer to them, saying it “brings down a barrier” between subject and viewer.

One of Claus’ models is Michael Foley, a former insurance salesman for a Fortune 50 company. When he was fired, he went back to painting as a means of earning an income. “I show in galleries and pray people will support the arts, which right now,” he says, chuckling, “that’s not working.”

NewsHour correspondent Spencer Michels gives us the full report.

[Click here to see Joe Claus’ ‘Let Go’ photo essay for Content Magazine]

Here is Spencer Michels’ report from Wednesday’s Newshour on what a new New Deal program for the arts might look like in the current economic crisis, a co-production with KQED’s Spark.

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