Geographies of Poverty: Modernist Photo Texts in the Age of Social Media


When recent artists have documented the effects of the Great Recession on contemporary life, they have repeatedly turned to the genre of the ‘modernist photo text' for aesthetic and ethical inspiration. Yet the medial and institutional networks that support and publish these works are vastly different today than they were in the 1930s. This essay turns to two photo text projects, Matt Black's American Geography (2014-Present) and Radcliffe ‘Ruddy' Roye's When Living is a Protest (2015Present), that adapt the FSA style of New Deal documentary to the social media platform Instagram. Black's and Roye's Instagram documentaries make visible the changing place of the photographer, and photography as a medium, in the 21st century. At the same time, they offer parallel but opposed examples of how ‘born digital' literary and visual art can reimagine modernism's insistence on media specificity for 21st-century artistic works, especially those keyed to capturing the social life of economic crisis.

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Open Library of Humanities