“Photography by itself doesn’t mean anything. Like writing, what you say with it is what’s important.”
Matt Black (born in 1970) is a documentary photographer from the USA, currently based in Exeter, California. He’s self-taught when it comes to photography. Matt Black is represented by Anastasia Photo.
“Matt Black grew up in a small town in California’s Central Valley, a vast agricultural area in the heart of the state. He started photography at a young age and worked as a newspaper photographer while in his teens. He attended San Francisco State University, where he studied Latin American and US Labor History.
“Exploring the changing human relationship to land, food, farming, and community lies at the core of Matt’s twin documentary projects.”
Over the past decade, 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.
Matt’s photography has been noted for its visual intensity and emotional engagement. He has received honors from the World Press Photo Foundation, the Alexia Foundation for World Peace, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation, and others.”
Interview with Matt Black
Matt, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
My family didn’t really do photography, but for some reason it appealed to me. I bought a used Minolta camera when I was around fourteen, I think.
Why did you become a photographer?
It was time to learn how to do something.
What does photography mean to you?
By itself, it doesn’t mean anything. Like writing, what you say with it is what’s important.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
Any photographer who cuts their own course inspires me.
What’s your favorite inspirational quote about photography?
My favorites quotes about photography are photographs. The good ones say all you need to know.
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
Essentially, I report. I go places and take my camera. I talk to people, I look, and I feel stuff. I try to get all that into photographs.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic language and how did you achieve it?
Having opinions, ideas, and sometimes getting angry about how things are. Funnel all that into your work.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
I spend a lot of time looking. You learn to let the pictures come to you.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
To tell a truth as simply as possible.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
I find inspiration in the things I photograph. It’s all about living up to the subject.
What kind of camera and equipment do you use?
I use Nikon cameras and Zeiss lenses.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
Truth be told, I just don’t find myself looking at much photography in general.
What book about photography would you recommend?
Edward Weston’s daybooks paint pretty vivid picture.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
If you want to be a professional, take pictures that others will pay for. If you discover you have something to say with your photography, you need to find a way of saying it.
Check out my photography podcast – conversations with inspiring photographers from around the globe sharing their secrets for creating amazing images. It’s mostly in German, but here are some episodes in English:
Valerie Jardin: “Street Photography – Creative Vision Behind The Lens”
Dmitry Stepanenko: “Heavy Color” Street Photography
Jason Koxvold: “Knives” – Left Behind In Rural America”
Dyanne Wilson: Chasing The Northern Lights In Yellowknife
Luc Kordas: Loneliness In New York