35 Sad Photos Of The Recession

A photographic tour of the recession, as told through 35 depressing photos! Here’s one of a hotel manager kicking in the door on a soon-to-be ex-tenant. The caption on the Getty photo by John Moore reads, “The tenant said that he was laid off from his job in a retail store two months ago and had fallen behind on his rent payments at the low-budget hotel.”

Scenes from the recession [Boston] (Thanks to Keith!)


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  1. calquist says:

    Is the Circuit City photo truly a recession photo?

  2. theblackdog says:

    Wow, my parents area hit the list twice (Phoenix Metro) and my area hit once (Baltimore)

  3. PacoHertez says:

    Its weird to see your hometown in these shots. (15/16)

    • Luke Ritchie says:

      @PacoHertez: Yeah. I live in Maricopa, and it’s surreal that our little city is getting so much attention. I forget if it was the NY Times or the Nightline piece that called Maricopa the “poster child” for the housing crisis. Except for the crappy property values, it’s actually a really nice place to live. At least we’ll have some great stories to tell our grandkids someday.

  4. RandaPanda says:

    For some reason, the scene of the Tent City broke my heart. It makes me realize that in this economy, having a place to rent is something that I tend to take for granted.

  5. Blueskylaw says:

    Free weekly tours of quality foreclosed homes in Las Vegas seems to be a big hit.

    Do any Consumerist readers know what the foreclosure rate is there and if you can get some really spectacular (not just great) deals there?

    A former $700,000 condo in Florida just went for $20,000.

    Show me a spectacular deal like that and I would most likely buy.

    • Ratty says:

      @Blueskylaw: It’s like that here in reno, too. Houses going for sometimes afraction of the original cost. I STILL think they’re overpriced.

      • dohtem says:

        @Ratty: I was in downtown Reno a while back and saw the new high rises. Any idea how well those are selling now?

        • Ratty says:

          @dohtem: All those “new highrises” are condos. Some have been under construction since 2004. They’ve been halted indefinitely because they’re not selling and the companies in charge of them fear they’ll lose more money by finishing the jobs right now. They could always turn them into apartment units, but that would make too much sense and we can’t have that.

          Not sure how recently you were here, but we had one of the major strip casinos (Fitzgeralds) close its doors in the past year.

  6. madanthony says:

    Well, if they managed to find people to buy all the stuff from Circuit City, the economy can’t be doing that badly. Heck, I stopped in on the next to last day of the going out of business sale, and the prices were still too high.

    Many of the pictures – especially the ones of unbuilt houses – are proof not so much that the economy is doing badly, but that it was growing at unsustainable levels in the first place.

  7. ElizabethD says:


    I met a traveler from an antique land
    Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
    And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
    And on the pedestal these words appear —
    “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.

  8. TheRedSeven says:

    Am I the only one waiting to hear the “Tent Cities” referred to as “Hoovervilles”? Or waiting to hear Obama say something about a “Chicken in every pot”? …I suspect it is only a matter of time.

    (You heard it here first.)

    • David Brodbeck says:

      @TheRedSeven: Here in Seattle the citizens of one are calling it “Nickelsville,” after the mayor. It’s not really a recession thing, though. Tent cities are a perennial thing here. It’s a political thing; by putting homeless people in tents instead of shelters, activists keep them visible and can put more pressure on elected officials.

    • flugangst says:

      @TheRedSeven: Perhaps we can modernize the Hooverville concept by calling them ‘Bamaburgs or Barack-shacks? (Or, depending on your political leanings and assessment of blame: Cheney City, Greenspan’s Acres, Paulson Town?)

  9. oneandone says:

    The photo of newspaper boxes was particularly striking.

    I also began to notice that without reading the captions on the empty house / unfinished development photos, it’s difficult to tell where they are. Sometimes the natural landscape creeping in gives you a clue, but the developments themselves lack all signs of connection or relevance to anything around them. When empty, they’re especially surreal. Obviously, there are foreclosed and empty houses all over, in even the oldest neighborhoods, but something about the houses in these pictures seems extraordinarily alien.

  10. ThickSkinned says:

    Why is the manager kicking in the door? Don’t they usually have keys to the rooms?

  11. Segador says:

    Staying informed is one thing, but in my opinion, stories like this serve no purpose but to depress people and heighten their anxiety. Instead of depressing stories, how about ways to help? (Not you, Ben – the media at large.)

    • failurate says:

      @Segador: Quite a few of those pictures could have been taken at any time, boom or bust. The junk yard for newspaper boxes for instance.

      And without the depressing caption, how do you know what stage the construction sites are in?

    • RodAox says:

      @Segador: yeah like what tough ? “keep your chin up and apply for that janitorial job that 800+ people has applied to” or “I make more money working at Applebeed than I have ever made working with my college degree” there are no good news in this mess. I am pondering which kidney to sell to pay my rent at this point.

    • johnfrombrooklyn says:

      @Segador: How about “Turn that frown upside down”. Does that help?

  12. econobiker says:

    ThickSkinned 5:15 PM Why is the manager kicking in the door? Don’t they usually have keys to the rooms?

    The resident probably changed the locks to keep the prior occupants out along with the management… Those type of places don’t re-key locks when people move out since it costs too much…yeah.

  13. The_Red_Monkey says:

    ” Randa the Panda
    4:50 PM

    For some reason, the scene of the Tent City broke my heart. It makes me realize that in this economy, having a place to rent is something that I tend to take for granted.

    Sorry to break your little cry fest but that place has always been there with the same kind of people. They assault people who use the bike path there. They are the unemployable.

  14. packcamera says:

    Well, at least these photographers have jobs. So I guess documenting the new depression can pay off as it did for the WPA photographers like Dorthea Lange.

  15. cozymoses says:

    ThickSkinned 5:15 PM Why is the manager kicking in the door? Don’t they usually have keys to the rooms?

    Or I bet he had the chain on…

  16. MarleneMops says:

    The newspaper boxes do not seem to represent what these “Photos of the Recession” are intending to represent. Aren’t newspaper boxes being eliminated simply due to the fact that news is transferring to online format and fewer people are purchasing paper copies because they can read it online? A paper newspaper (no pun intended) really is a waste of paper when it can be enjoyed electronically.

    • David Brodbeck says:

      @MarleneMops: It’s hard to read an electronic newspaper on the bus, and I don’t have to worry about getting pizza sauce on it if I read it over lunch.

      • David Brodbeck says:

        @David Brodbeck: That was worded poorly. Let me try again.

        I don’t have to worry about getting pizza sauce on my laptop if I read a non-electronic paper while I eat lunch.

  17. erictipler says:

    @ThickSkinned: @ThickSkinned: The camera was on him. He had to do something dramatic!

  18. RandaPanda says:


    Okay, point made. Now I don’t feel as sorry for them as I did earlier.

  19. Alys Brangwin says:

    I was surprised to see the photos of Almaty. I know where those are, and when I was in Kstan construction was booming in Almaty, Astana, and Shimkent. Now it’s much worse because the price of oil fell so much. It’s only going to lead to more tyranny from Nazarbayev too, as he holds power and his oil baron fortune. Most of the cities look like that what is seen with the tiny house dwarfed by the empty apartment buildings. The nouveau riche aren’t doing so hot and inflation is kicking the ass of every ordinary citizen. If Nani isn’t careful he has a real revolution on hand where no phony vote-counting will save him.

  20. SpaceBat_GitEmSteveDave says:

    @badhatharry: I’m w/Harry. They have those little chains the old people use so the maulers didn’t get them. That or a chair behind the doorknob.

  21. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Honestly, some nations such as Kazakhstan weren’t very wealthy to begin with – simply saying the recession is why these buildings aren’t being worked on right now isn’t the solution, unless it’s absolutely the case.

    And the woman whose husband lost her job and they’re living in a cheap motel – $1,200 for a month’s rent?! I only WISH I could have a place so cheaply! Can anyone living in Sacramento verify that rent is so cheap there that $1,200 in rent is expensive? I pay $1,550 just for rent!

  22. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    pecan 3.14159265: Darn that lack of an edit button…I also meant to clarify that I think $1,200 a month for a motel room is outrageous, but the cutline of the photo made it seem as if $1,200 was an increase over the rent payments they had when they had a home (the cutline had said they rented a home, not an apartment).

  23. HogwartsAlum says:

    That really was kind of depressing. Why did I look?

    Nice poem, ElizabethD. I’ve always liked that one.

  24. gruffydd says:

    These pictures terrify me.
    What scares me even more,is in my hometown of Brea, CA there doesn’t seem to be a recession. Sure, home values have dropped, stores have closed….but go to the local Lucille’s or Cheesecake Factory ANY NIGHT OF THE WEEK, and you’ll find at least a 30 minute wait. And Brea Mall’s parking lot is always packed. I guess people here don’t need to be saving for their 8 month emergency fund.

  25. LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

    It was depressing to see the photo from the car dealership, which happens to be in the tri-city area (Fremont, Newark, Union City, CA) where I grew up. Things are pitiful all over but for some reason, that really made me sad.

  26. SteveBMD says:

    Does the sun ever shine in the former Soviet republics?

  27. RandaPanda says:

    @pecan 3.14…..

    Rent here for an apartment is anywhere between $300 (for a basic studio apartment) to $700 (for a 3 bedroom apartment). Houses for rent can go for about the same, depending on the size and location. My boyfriend and I just moved from a 3 bedroom apartment where we paid all utilites and paid $525 a month for rent and about $200 between all the utilities.

    Now we’re in a 1 bedroom place where utilites are included and we pay just over $400 a month.

  28. ltlbbynthn says:

    That’s only about $40 a night, which is crazy cheap for a motel room. My mom and I lived in a motel for a month before we could move into our new apartment, and that’s what we paid. I hope that family has a kitchen of some sort, so they’re not wasting even more money eating out for every meal.