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Citizen Photojournalism

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For the past decade, award-winning photographer Matt Black has focused on the intersection of poverty, migration, and the environment. His photographs are visually striking. Most often they tell stories of individuals and communities on the map isolated from poverty.

In his photo essay, “Geography of Poverty” Black creates a unique view of poverty throughout California's Central Valley using geolocations, and poverty data. In 2014, he posted these images on Instagram to put the marginalized communities of the Central Valley on the map and was named Time Magazine's Instagram photographer of the year.

In this lesson, students engage in classroom discussions centered around the themes of human rights and inequality. Students also respond to a variety of writing prompts to consider the relationships between place and economic and cultural dynamics.

I was particularly moved by Black's point of view in this interview with the Alexia Foundation. He said, "My feeling is that all of this work is trying to get at the question of connection: to the land, to each other, to the idea of community. Migration, erosion, poverty, these are all things that deal with alienation, and I feel like these pictures burrow into that: what it means socially when these bonds begin to fray. There’s not much difference between the ideas of farming and of community. It’s all one thing: it’s how we’ve lived for most of history. It’s made us who we are. So, what happens when those bonds start to fall apart? What happens when people don’t even know where their food comes from? What happens when the land starts to wash away?"

What do you think?

More to Explore

Photo Essay
The Geography of Poverty

Learn about poverty throughout California’s Central Valley with images, geolocation, and poverty data.

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Photo Essay
The People of Clouds

The people and land of the Mixteca are one of the world's last bastions of traditional indigenous life in Mexico.

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High School
Grade Level: 9-12
Citizen Photojournalism
Winners and Finalists: The Environment Is in You

This contest challenged students to take a photograph or create an original illustration that documents the fragility, hope, and future of our planet’s ecosystem due to climate change. 

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