American Artifacts

Matt Black

The companion volume to Matt Black's critically acclaimed American Geography presents a deeper view of his six-year odyssey documenting poverty in the United States.

During his six-year journey across the United States creating the project that became American Geography, Matt Black collected objects in the locations he visited. Each location is designated as an area of "concentrated poverty"—a US Census definition for places with poverty rates of 20% or higher. Over time, the objects he found and collected began to take on symbolic significance.

As Black crisscrossed the United States, his collection grew into the thousands: plastic spoons and forks, lottery tickets, liquor bottles, lighters, and matchbooks. Some items were important, like job applications, medical paperwork, driver’s licenses; some were lost personal effects, like family photographs, bracelets, eyeglasses, notes, and letters. And there was the detritus of labor: work gloves, broken tools and supplies, wire, bolts, padlocks, and bent nails.

This new monograph, presented as a companion volume to Black’s seminal photobook, American Geography, presents photographs of these objects, assemblages, and collages, as well as previously unpublished images from American Geography, and the voices of those who are cut off from the "American Dream."

These humble, discarded objects form a portrait of America assembled from its roadways and sidewalks, an archaeology of dispossession. For those who follow Black’s photographic work and his unflinching critique of inequality in the United States, this book is an essential volume.


Matt Black


Matt Black is a member of Magnum Photos. He has received numerous honors, including the W. Eugene Smith Grant and three Robert F. Kennedy Journalism awards. He lives in the Central Valley of California.