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for people who care about the West

Photos: Tracing poverty in the West

Over 11.5 million people live in poverty in Western states; here are intimate portraits of their communities.


Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson first introduced the legislation known informally as “the War on Poverty,” photographer Matt Black made a circuit of the United States, photographing the communities where poverty still holds sway. Many of Johnson’s programs still exist — Medicaid and Medicare, the preschool program HeadStart, the youth service program VISTA. But so does the issue they were established to address. According to the U.S. Census, more than 11.5 million people in the West live below the poverty line. Across the U.S., more than 45 million people do. Black’s photographs, which focus on towns and counties with poverty rates above 20 percent, trace the effects of the country’s deep income divides by documenting the inhabitants of those areas and the trappings of their daily lives. In his travels from Tulare County, California, to Sunrise Manor, Nevada, he uncovers the delicate details of everyday life in some of the West’s poorest communities. The end result, Black says, is "a modern portrait of poverty in the U.S." Kate Schimel

To find more of Matt Black's work, see his website here