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People of the Clouds


In the mountains of rural Mexico, a photographer documents the space between staying and going.

Over the past decade, I have traveled a dozen times to the Mixteca, documenting how migration, environmental degradation, and cultural change are bleeding the life out of the deepest heart of rural Mexico. Named the “Place of the Cloud People” by the Aztecs and home to one of the oldest pre-Columbian cultures in the Americas, the Mixteca has lost over a quarter million people to migration, leaving scores of villages little more than ghost towns. This ongoing project, an extended inquiry into the sources and consequences of this migration, is both a document of what is being lost and a sketch of what lies ahead for one of the world’s last bastions of traditional indigenous life.


Matt Black 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. Early travels in Mexico and 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. His work has received numerous grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation and many others. He has also been named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and has received a Golden Eye award from the World Press Photo Foundation.

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4 comments for People of the Clouds

  1. Comment by Leon Sun on July 1, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    These are incredibly beautiful photographs. They have a surreal and spiritual quality about them. Also – it’s always good to see the continuation of black and white photojournalism in this day and age. Thank you, Matt Black!

  2. Comment by judith bershof on July 7, 2011 at 11:18 pm


  3. Comment by greg on July 8, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    matt you have a powerful eye! was blown away by these photos. deep insight into the human community. what a talent. and what a heart to be so concerned. proud of you!

  4. Comment by John Frederick on February 27, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    Very beautiful. Where these by chance ever displayed at the Bill Wittliff Collection at the Texas State University Library in San Marcos?

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