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Matt Black is from California’s Central Valley, an agricultural region at the heart of the state. His work has explored the connections between migration, poverty, agriculture, and the environment in California, southern Mexico, and across the wider United States. “The most important key to understanding what and why I’m doing this project is where I come from”, Black says about the project. “It’s the place where I still live today, where I’ve spent my entire life, and where the project started. It’s a region that is not represented by the great American myth, the basic idea of America.”
The Geography of Poverty is the result of four cross-country trips. To complete the project, he has travelled over 100,000 miles and has photographed communities in 46 states.
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. “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?.”
The exhibition ‘American Geography’ at the House of Photography at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg reasserts the institution’s ambition to display committed documentary photographers who focus on sociopolitical and social conditions of life. “With his large-format, square, black-and-white pictures and overwhelming landscape panoramas, Black shows us a country far from unlimited possibilities and an American society that is largely characterized by poverty, lack of opportunity, and political resignation”, says Ingo Taubhorn, curator of the House of Photography.