When Magnum photographer Matt Black began exploring his hometown in California’s rural Central Valley—dubbed “the other California,” where one-third of the population lives in poverty—he knew what his next project had to be. Black was inspired to create a vivid portrait of an unknown America, to photograph some of the poorest communities across the US. Traveling across forty-six states and Puerto Rico, Black visited designated “poverty areas,” places with a poverty rate above 20 percent, and found that poverty areas are so numerous that they’re never more than a two-hour’s drive apart, woven through the fabric of the country but cut off from “the land of opportunity.” American Geography is a visual record of this five-year, 100,000-mile road trip, which chronicles the vulnerable conditions faced by America’s poor.
This compelling compilation of black-and-white photographs is accompanied by Black’s own travelogue—a collection of observations, overheard conversations in cafeés and public transportation, diner menus, bus timetables, historical facts, and snippets from daily news reports. A future classic of photography, this monograph is supported by an international touring exhibition and is a must-have for anyone with an interest in witnessing the reality of an America that’s been excluded from the American Dream.
Matt Black is a member of Magnum Photos. He was named TIME magazine’s Instagram Photographer of the Year in 2014 and has received the W. Eugene Smith Grant and two Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards.