Matt Black Awarded 2015 W. Eugene Smith Grant

A photographer with a long-term commitment to documenting poverty in America takes the prize

El Paso, TX
El Paso is a city in El Paso County, Texas. The population is 649,121 and 21.5% live below the poverty level.© Matt Black
Alpaugh, CA
Alpaugh is a town in Tulare County, California. The population is 1,026 and 55.4% live below the poverty level.© Matt Black
Corcoran, CA. Burning Tires
Corcoran is a city in Kings County, California. The population is 24,813 and 28% live below the poverty level.© Matt Black
Syracuse, NY
Syracuse is a city in Onondaga County, New York. The population is 145,170 and 34.6% live below the poverty level.© Matt Black
Buffalo, NY. Shuttered Train Terminal.
Buffalo is a city in Erie County, New York. The population is 261,310 and 30.7% live below the poverty level.© Matt Black
Modesto, CA. Corner Store.
Modesto is a city in Stanislaus County, California. The population is 201,165 and 20.8% live below the poverty level.© Matt Black
CAR Along Religious Lines
Khadidja Alhadji Adbou, a 30-year-old Mboro woman, witnessed anti-balaka forces shooting and killing her husband and three children. In the same attack, she was shot in the neck but survived. October 31, 2013.© Marcus Bleasdale
CAR Along Religious Lines
People displaced by the fighting between ex-Seleka and anti-balaka forces find shelter in an old factory on the grounds of the Catholic church in Bossangoa. November 2, 2013.© Marcus Bleasdale
Connie Sue Foss bears scars from punching a window during a PTSD episode and holds a molar she lost from grinding her teeth at night.© Mary F. Calvert
US Army Spc. Natasha Schuette, 21, was sexually assaulted by her drill sergeant during basic training and subsequently suffered harassment by other drill sergeants after reporting the assault at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Her assailant is serving just four years in prison for assaulting her and four other female trainees. Natasha suffers daily from PTSD because of the attack. She is now stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.© Mary F. Calvert
Connie Sue Foss was raped while in the US Army. She has found it difficult to hold down a job to care for herself and her daughter.© Mary F. Calvert
Military lawyers from the US Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard, are grilled by lawmakers during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill to discuss sexual assaults in the US Armed Forces.© Mary F. Calvert

Photographer Matt Black has been awarded the 2015 W. Eugene Smith grant for his long-term documentary project The Geography of Poverty. Black started the project nearly two decades ago in California's Central Valley, where he grew up, and in 2014 set out on a cross-country trek to document poverty across America. He utilized Instagram to publish the work during his 18,000 mile road trip.

"It was try to get the people who were on Instagram to picture themselves in these places," Black told Time in 2014. Since then Black's project has picked up support for the extensive body of work from MSNBC, Magnum Foundation, the Pulitzer Center, the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and now the $30,000 award from the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund.

"Black's searing images depict what America looks like to the more than 45 million people living in poverty," explains Brian Storm, Chair of the 2015 W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund grant and Founder of MediaStorm. "Geography of Poverty is an 18,000 mile journey that puts a human face on the staggering statistics."

Photographers Mary F. Calvert and Marcus Bleasdale were also honored for long term documentary projects—the two are co-recipients of the 2015 Smith Fund Fellowship and will share a $5,000 award.

Calvert's project, The Battle Within: Sexual Violence in America's Military, takes an in-depth look at the lives of victims who have suffered sexual trauma while serving in the military. According to Calvert the goal of her project is to expose these crimes—there are an estimated 19,000 victims each year—and end the intimidation tactics so often used to keep female troops silent.

Bleasdale's project, Financing the Failure of a State, focuses on the turmoil in the Central African Republic and the impact that the failure of the Muslim Seleka government has had on the Muslims and Christians left behind.

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