American Geography is the visual record of Magnum photographer Matt Black’s five-year, 100,000-mile road trip across 46 states of the United States, plus Puerto Rico. It examines the conditions of powerlessness, prejudice and pragmatism among America’s poor.
The project originated in Matt Black’s exploration of his own home town in California’s rural Central Valley – a place that has been called ‘the other California’ – where one third of the population lives in poverty. Travelling out from that location in 2015, he went on to visit designated ‘poverty areas’ – places with poverty rates of above 20% as defined by the US census. He found that, rather than being anomalies, ‘poverty areas’ are never more than two-hour’s drive apart. They are woven throughout the fabric of the country, yet are cut off from the ‘land of opportunity’.
Matt Black’s compelling black and white photographs, from which one can trace a line back to the FSA Photographers of the 1930s and 1940s such as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, are accompanied by his own travelogue – an eclectic combination of observations, overheard conversations in cafés and city buses, diner menus, bus timetables, historical facts and echoes from daily news reports – which enrich the vivid portrait of these ‘states of un-America.’
'The photographs confer a stoical dignity on these exiles from America’s glossy promise, and notes from Black’s journals reveal how compassionately he listened to their jaunty tales of woe'
'[Black's] photographs are in stark black and white, and have an almost lino- or woodcut feel to them. Their strong graphic quality – the contrasts between black shadows and harsh sunlight – endow his images with a sharp edge supremely appropriate for his subject'
Black & White Photography
'An unflinching and challenging portrayal of its subject matter'
Digital Camera Magazine