Matt Black


Matt Black (b. 1970) is a photographer from California’s Central Valley. His work explores themes of migration, farming, poverty and the environment in his native rural California and in southern Mexico. Recent photo essays have been published in The New Yorker, Mother Jones, andVice Magazines.


Black became a nominee member of Magnum Photos in June 2015 and was named Time Magazine’s Instagram Photographer of the Year in 2014. He is a contributor to the @everydayusa photographers’ collective. He has produced or collaborated on short films and multimedia pieces for, Orion Magazine, and The New Yorker, and has taught photography with the Foundry Photojournalism Workshops, the Los Angeles Center of Photography, and the Eddie Adams Workshop.


His work has been profiled by National Geographic, The New York Times, National Public Radio, Time and Slate, and has been honored by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation, the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund, World Press Photo, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Pictures of the Year International, the Alexia Foundation, and the Center for Cultural Innovation, among others. He lives in Exeter, a small town in California’s Central Valley.


September 12 – October 31, 2015


According to the Census Bureau’s measure of poverty—$11,490 is the annual income for one person or $23,550 for a family of four—over 45 million people fall below the poverty line in the U.S., the largest number on record for the country.


Originating on Black’s Instagram feed (@mattblack_blackmatt), The Geography of Poverty began in his home region of California’s Central Valley. In the heart of the nation’s richest state, conditions rival that of any third world nation, with residents suffering some of the country’s highest unemployment and hunger rates. Combining images, geolocation, and poverty data, the project sought to put these marginalized communities on the map and chart this unseen scope of poverty in rural America. Since the first post in December 2013, The Geography of Poverty has gained over 180,000 followers and earned Black TIME’s title of 2014 Instagram Photographer of the Year.


Following a preplanned route across the four corners of the United States, Black began a three-month road trip this past June, documenting over 70 cities, towns, and rural communities, connected by the fact that more than 20% of their residents fall below the poverty line. From the staggering hunger and food insecurity in the Southwest to the ‘Cancer Valley’ of Louisiana, the persistence of inequality in education and generational opportunity, and rampant unemployment and crime in the post-industrial Mid-West; Black questions what kind of America are we to be – a land of opportunity, or pockets of plenty amidst a landscape of disparity and despair?


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September 12 – October 19, 2014


Matt Black’s twin documentary projects The Kingdom of Dust and The People of Clouds explore the changing human relationship to food, farming and the environment. In 1995, Black returned to his native region, California’s Central Valley, to embark on The Kingdom of Dust, a multi-year chronicle exploring the underside of contemporary rural life in the shadow of some of America’s richest farms.


While working on this project, Black noticed a shift in the population of migrants coming to work the fields, and in 2000 began The People of Clouds, an extended photographic inquiry into the collapse of indigenous farming communities in the Mixteca region of southern Mexico. Through Black’s masterful eye and intimate relationship with his subjects, his photographs reveal the poetry of everyday moments as he chronicles communities in flux responding to broader global forces.


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