1994 — student award of excellence
Matt Black's photographs have been noted for their emotional engagement, social conviction and visual intensity.
Matt grew up in a small town in California's Central Valley, a vast agricultural area that is home to some of the poorest communities in the United States. He began taking photographs at a young age and worked as a newspaper photographer while in his teens. Matt went on to study Latin American and US Labor History at San Francisco State University, where he earned a BA with honors. Early travels in Mexico, Central and South America deepened his interest in changing rural economies, migration and cultural change, themes that he has been exploring photographically for over a decade.
Matt's work has received grants and awards from the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the California Arts Council, Pictures of the Year International, the California Council for the Humanities, the Alexia Foundation for World Peace, the Sunday Magazine Editors Association, Communication Arts, American Photography, Lightwork and the Center for Photographic Projects. His work has also been named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and has received a Golden Eye award from the World Press Photo Foundation.
The Transbay Terminal is San Francisco's primary mass-transportation depot. Because it is one of the few public buildings downtown, homeless people go there to pass time or sleep. Commuters and business people in the area have long complained about their presence at the terminal. But little has been done, save increased police presence, to improve the situation for the people who are forced to live there.
I have always tried to avoid the individual stories of homeless people -- they are too diffuse and varied to allow for the formation of an accurate overview. To me, the collective weight of their plight is the most telling; I have tried, therefore, to take photos which speak more to the generalities of their ecperience than to the specific situation of the individual photographed. While this approach might be open to criticism by traditionalists, the same classic photojournalism goal is being pursued: social change through awareness.
I began this project in the summer of 1993 and I continue to work on it now. I am working towards publishing and/or exhibiting these pictures later this year. I hope that with publication, something might be done to improve the situation at the terminal.