Matt Black

American Geography

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. Matt Black was inspired to create a vivid portrait of an unknown America, to photograph some of the poorest communities in the United States for American Geography.

Traveling across forty-six states and Puerto Rico, the award-winning photographer visited designated “poverty areas” (places with a poverty rate above 20 percent) and found that these areas are so numerous that they are never more than a two-hour’s drive apart, woven through the fabric of the country but cut off from “the land of opportunity.” His first monograph, American Geography, destined to be a future classic of photography, is a remarkable visual record of this five-year, 100,000-mile road trip, conveying the nation’s grim realities.

Accompanying Black’s compelling black-and-white photographs throughout the book is his own travelogue: an evocative collection of observations, overheard conversations in cafés and public transportation, bus timetables, diner menus, historical facts, and snippets from daily news reports. The portrait of America that emerges in American Geography will challenge readers’ perceptions, deconstructing the myth of the American Dream and shining a light on the brutal reality for many people living in the world’s richest country.

Matt Black’s work has appeared regularly in Time magazine, The New Yorker, The California Sunday Magazine, and other publications. A member of Magnum Photos, he has been honored three times by the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards. In 2015, he received the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Award for Humanistic Photography.


10 ½ x 10¼ in.
168 Pages
97 Black & White Illustrations
Thames & Hudson, 2021


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