The big picture: ​an epic journey along America’s poverty line

나는엔 2015, the photographer Matt Black set out from his home in California’s Central Valley to discover and record the realities of American lives in communities below the poverty line. Over the next six years, he crisscrossed the country from coast to coast, visiting all the hundreds of places below that federally defined divide in which more than one in five Americans live in poverty. None of these places was separated by more than a two-hour drive. Black travelled more than 100,000 miles without ever visiting that more familiar other country where life expectancy was 20 years longer and income many zeroes larger.

Some of his inspiration for this journey came from the Depression-era photographs of Dorothea Lange and the writing of John Steinbeck. Nearly a century on, he found countless stories that shared the lineaments of that despair. The young men in featureless dusty shacks and trailer parks who sell their blood to live; the families unable to get clean water, who are kept alive by food stamps. Speaking to the 관찰자, early in his journey, Black said: “All these diverse communities are connected, not least in their powerlessness. In the mainstream media, poverty is often looked at in isolation, but it is an American problem. It seems to me that it goes unreported because it does not fit the way America sees itself.”

Black’s epic book of the photographs of his journey, American Geography, is a humbling and powerful corrective to that myopia. He notes how the quest continually challenged both “my faith in my country and my own role”. This photograph was taken in Lindsay, 캘리포니아 (population 11,768, of whom 35.8% live in poverty). The woozily meandering road markings on a darkened plain seem somehow emblematic of his landmark quest, in which lights of direction and hope are few and far between.




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