The most vulnerable Americans are being crushed by the grip of poverty, from the deserts of the Southwest through the black belt in the South, to the post-industrial, rusting factory towns that dot the Midwest and Northeast.
From border to border, high-poverty rates have crippled entire communities, leaving bellies burning with hunger and hope of better days dwindling. Income inequality has widened in recent decades while upward mobility has declined. A tiny percentage of high income Americans hold the majority of the wealth in this country.
Quite plainly, the rich have grown richer and if you’re born poor here you’re likely to die poor. The slight declines in the national poverty rate have done little to allay the day-to-day plight of so many who are just scraping by, largely invisibly and along the margins.
The poverty rate for African Americans and Hispanics is particularly stark, with 27% and 23.5% respectively falling below the poverty line.
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, farming, and the environment in his native rural California and in southern Mexico for two decades.
In 2014, he began the project The Geography of Poverty, a digital documentary work that combines geotagged photographs with census data to map and document poor communities. In the summer of 2015, he undertook a thirty state trip photographing seventy of America’s poorest places, work that was published as a four part series on MSNBC. Other projects include The Dry Land, about the impact of drought on California’s agricultural communities, and The Monster in the Mountains, about the disappearance of forty three students in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. Both of these projects, accompanied by short films, were published by The New Yorker.
Time Magazine named him Instagram Photographer of the Year for his Geography of Poverty project. His work has also been honored by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation, the Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Pictures of the Year International, World Press Photo, the Alexia Foundation, the Center for Cultural Innovation, and others. He lives in Exeter, a small town in California’s Central Valley.
The Economic Hardship Reporting Project (EHRP) produces quality journalism about—and often by—Americans who are experiencing economic injustice. Our nonprofit supports independent journalists and photographers so they can create gripping stories that counter common poor-shaming narratives. We then inject these stories into the mainstream media, mobilizing readers to change systems that perpetuate inequality.
The Pulitzer Center raises awareness of underreported global issues through direct support for quality journalism across all media platforms and a unique program of education and public outreach. We support over 200 reporting projects a year, in partnership with more than 150 news organizations with an increasing focus on regional and local outlets to ensure we are reaching diverse audiences. We are raising awareness of the interconnected nature of the greatest challenges of our times and pointing to possible solutions. We serve global public-interest journalism by engaging wide audiences on deeply reported topics and inspiring the next generation to value credible news and cross-cultural understanding.
The Geography of Poverty
Featuring: Matt Black
LocationsView Location Details Download a detailed map of this location Brooklyn Bridge Park – Emily Warren Roebling Plaza
1 Water St
Brooklyn, NY 11201
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The American Dream: Documenting Economic Inequality in America
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