Photographer Matt Black received the $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography at the 36th annual W. Eugene Smith Grant and Awards Presentation on Wednesday, October 14, at The School of Visual Arts Theatre in New York. The program included presentations of photo essays by the fellowship recipients and finalists.
“I’m deeply honored and humbled to receive the W. Eugene Smith Grant for Humanistic Photography,” the Pulitzer Center grantee said in an interview with TIME. “The support this grant gives my work is invaluable.”
After spending two decades focusing his lens on issues of poverty, migration and farming in California's Central Valley, Black expanded his project to the extreme economic hardship throughout the rest of the country. In summer 2015, Black embarked on a cross-country trip supported by the Pulitzer Center in collaboration with MSNBC. He sought to explore and document the stories of individuals and communities from America's poorest regions through his photography. The project’s objective is to look at the cost and consequences of poverty and help facilitate fundamental changes in society while narrowing the distance between the haves and have-nots.
Two additional journalists received support from the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund for their respective projects, sharing a $5,000 award: Mary F. Calvert, for her reporting on sexual assault in the military, and Pulitzer Center grantee Marcus Bleasdale, for "Financing the Failure of a State," which studied the turmoil in the Central African Republic and the impact a state’s failure has on its people. With the support of the Pulitzer Center, Bleasdale previously reported with Joe Bavier on the Lord's Resistance Army and surfaced the use of child soldiers, sex slaves, and forced labor to mine precious metals in Central Africa.
Judges for this year’s grant and fellowship included Brian Storm, founder of MediaStorm and this year’s adjudication committee chair; John Temple, president of First Look Media; and Stephen Mayes, executive director of the Tim Hetherington Trust. Recipients of the 2015 W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund grant and fellowship were selected from more than 220 submissions received from 40 countries.
Other recent recipients of the grant include Joseph Sywenkyj (2014), Robin Hammond (2013), Peter van Agtmael (2012), and Krisanne Johnson (2011). A complete listing of recipients can be viewed at SmithFund.org.
Black recently presented his photography in Chicago in tandem with the Pulitzer Center's Campus Consortium partnership with Loyola University Chicago, sparking conversations on growing income inequality in the U.S. and contemporary poverty around the world.
Via an initiative by the Magnum Foundation and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Black's "Geography of Poverty" photography is also featured in New York as part of an art exhibition and Cathedral-wide initiative addressing the issues of food security, hunger, access to healthy food, local and urban farming, factory farming, diet, and the cultural and spiritual meanings of food. The exhibition runs through April 3, 2016.