Matt Black: Lessons in the Field


PhotoWings spent the day with documentary photographer Matt Black in Firebaugh, California as he made images for his body of work in the Central Valley. While on location, he provided insights on his photographic philosophy and how he connects to the people, communities and landscapes that he encounters. He shared tips about critical thinking, resilience, and how to tell complex stories using photographs.

Matt Black grew up in a small town in California's Central Valley, a rural agricultural area in the heart of the state. He graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in Latin American and US Labor History.

Matt's work has chronicled the decline of traditional farming life and the rise of its modern replacement in rural California and southern Mexico. Exploring the changing human relationship to land, food, farming, and community lies at the core of Matt's twin documentary projects: The People of Clouds and The Kingdom of Dust.

His work has been honored by the World Press Photo Foundation, the Alexia Foundation for World Peace, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation, Pictures of the Year International, and others.

Foundry Photojournalism Workshop 2014 - Evening Presentation:


Additional Links

American Geography Project:
via Magnum Photos

National Geographic: The Kingdom of Dust (June 14, 2014)

Time Lightbox: The Geography of Poverty (April 4, 2014)

The New Yorker Photo Booth The People of Clouds (September 13, 2013)

Esquire Russia: The Kingdom of Dust (December 6, 2012)

Boston Globe Big Picture: Matt Black's Mixteca (September 29, 2012)

Alexia Foundation: Interview with Matt Black (October 9, 2012)

New York Times Lens Blog: Weighed Down by History, a Town Slides in Mexico (October 8, 2012)

Time Lightbox: Eddie Adams Workshop Tribute (October 3, 2012)

Orion Magazine: After the Fall (September 1, 2012)

Shpilman Institute for Photography: The People of Clouds (September 29, 2011)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung: Matt Black: San Miguel Cuevas – Das Sterbende Dorf (August 19, 2011)

Fraction Magazine: Matt Black: People of Clouds (August 19, 2011)

Shpilman Institute for Photography: Matt Black (August 7, 2011)

Guernica Magazine: Matt Black: People of Clouds (July 1, 2011)

The Boston Globe - The Big Picture: People of Clouds (June 27, 2011)

National Public Radio - The Picture Show: A Story of Ghost Towns and Great Migrations (June 24, 2011)

New York Times Lens Blog: Modern Agonies in Ancient Mexican Villages (June 16, 2011)

Prison Photography: Matt Black (June 13, 2011)

RECIPROCITY FAILURE: Matt Black (June 6, 2011)

L E N S C R A T C H: Matt Black (June 1, 2011)

500 Photographers: Matt Black (May 16, 2011)

Orion Magazine: Desiccated Dreams (March 1, 2011)

Good: The Central Valley Is a Dust Bowl (February 24, 2011)

7.7 Magazine: Matt Black: The Black Okies (October 12, 2010)

Verve: New Breed of Documentary Photographers: Matt Black (March 31, 2010)

SMOGRANCH: Matt Black: Photographer to Follow (May 15, 2009)

Photographers Speak: Matt Black: A Commitment to Truth (April 14, 2009)

Blue Eyes Magazine: Matt Black: The Mixteca (January 5, 2007)

The Los Angeles Times: A Lens on the Misery Amid Our Bounty (September 3, 2006)

The Big Picture: Visual Metaphor, Documentary Photography and Matt Black (April 20, 2005)

San Francisco Chronicle: The Quiet Nobility of the Human Spirit (October 17, 2003)