Magnum Photos Print Room
American Black & White brings together new work from Matt Black’s series ‘The Geography of Poverty’, shown alongside Elliott Erwitt’s recently rediscovered work shot in Pittsburgh in 1950. Collectively, the distinctive works in this exhibition present a portrait of urban and rural America, shot half a century apart, but united by the medium of black & white photography.
Examining life in the forgotten corners of America during the first months of the Trump presidency, this latest instalment from photographer Matt Black’s ‘The Geography of Poverty’ project finds region after region of the US marked by the competing conditions of poverty, violence, and prejudice as well as hope, honour, and pragmatism. For this ongoing project, Black has travelled 48,0000 miles across 44 US states, photographing communities whose poverty rates are I excess of 20%, and highlighting the country’s growing gap between rich and poor. The works in the series are powerful and graphic black and photographs, and the new works in the exhibition were shot across Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and South Dakota since the start of 2017. Black was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for the project, as well as the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Prize.
In 1950, 22-year-old Elliott Erwitt was commissioned by the legendary Roy Stryker to document Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as it emerged from a notoriously polluted industrial city into a cleaner, more modern metropolis. Erwitt captured the dirt and the grit of the old city, the new buildings of the city’s rebirth, and most importantly, the individuality of the residents of Pittsburgh, creating a unique document of the city. Drafted into the US army in Germany just four months after arriving in Pittsburgh, Erwitt was forced to abandon the project, leaving his negatives behind. For decades, the negatives were held at the Pennsylvania Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and as a result, a majority of these photographs have remained unseen for decades and will be exhibited here for the first time. This project, an early reportage in a quintessentially American post-war city revels the making of Erwitt’s photographic style.