Matt Black is from California’s Central Valley, an agricultural region in the heart of the state. His work has explored the connections between migration, poverty, agriculture, and the environment in his native rural California and in southern Mexico. He has traveled over 100,000 miles across 46 U.S. states for his project The Geography of Poverty. Other recent works include The Dry Land, about the impact of drought on California’s agricultural communities, and The Monster in the Mountains, about the disappearance of 43 students in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. Both of these projects, accompanied by short films, were published by The New Yorker.

For the past four years, Matt Black has wondered about an alternate title for his documentary project The Geography of Poverty. Since 2014, the work has taken him on four cross-country trips over 80,000 miles, photographing communities in 46 states. »It could have just as easily been called The Geography of Power,« Black says, soon after returning from his fourth trip, which lasted nine months. »It’s something much more complicated than economics; it’s about social power. Who gets their needs met and who doesn’t?«

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.7% of Americans — or 40 million people — live in poverty. To Black, poverty is not really a question of economics but rather a lived experience of power. But how do you make visible something ingrained in the very fabric of our society?

He received the W. Eugene Smith Award in 2015. In 2016, he received the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and was named a Senior Fellow at the Emerson Collective. In 2018, he again received a Robert F. Kennedy Award for his work in Puerto Rico. His work has also been honored by the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the Center for Cultural Innovation, and others. He lives in Exeter, a small town in California’s Central Valley.

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