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These striking black-and-white photos bring poverty in America to life.

These somber photos document a part of the United States many rarely see.

These striking black-and-white photos bring poverty in America to life.

Photographer Matt Black's latest project shows us an America we're all a part of but not all of us see.

After two decades of documenting impoverished areas in California, Black decided to take his project on the road, tracing a path all across the country.

A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on



He visited areas that have at least a 20% poverty rate (which as of 2014 is an income of $11,490 for individuals and $23,550 for a family of four). A whopping 45 million of Americans are living in poverty — the highest number recorded. And that isn't even including the working poor (who are more than 50% of SNAP recipients).

While it's clear that poverty's impact is different in every town, the project shows there is a commonality that connects them — us — all.

In an interview with Time, Black explains,

"I wanted to find a continuous route that linked all of these towns, which are no more than a couple of hundred miles from each other. And the fact that you can link all of these communities from coast to coast and back again is telling." — Matt Black
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on


So many of the representations of poverty we see in the media are usually from out there — other countries. Black's work sheds light on what's happening right here at home.

His remarkable photos are accompanied by stunning facts about life in each specific area. The captions range from quotes from locals to statistics about the health conditions of the region's residents.

A quick look at his Instagram account shows photos from California...

The Geography of Poverty USA - Santa Maria, CA. Santa Maria is a city in Santa Barbara County, California. The population is 99,553 and 20.7% live below the poverty level. Approximately 10,000 people work in the city's surrounding strawberry fields, earning $1.25 per box picked. Amador Angeles, field worker: “I wish for my kids to to study so they don't have to carry on like us." #geographyofpoverty www.geographyofpoverty.com
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on
The Geography of Poverty USA - Oil field. Bakersfield, CA. Kern County's fields produce one in every 12 barrels of domestic oil. Deep shale drilling releases into the air compounds that cause smog, respiratory problems, and cancer. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on


...to the Southwest.

The Geography of Poverty USA - Brownsville, TX. Brownsville is a city in Cameron County, Texas. The population is 175,023 and 35.3% live below the poverty level. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on
The Geography of Poverty USA - The remains of an unidentified migrant discovered in Brooks County, Texas, await forensic analysis. The bodies of twenty-six border crossers have been found so far this year in the rural Texas county, one of the nation's poorest. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on


Through the South...

The Geography of Poverty USA - Hyden, KY. Hyden is a city in Leslie County, Kentucky. The population is 365 and 26.3% live below the poverty level. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on
The Geography of Poverty USA - Cancer Alley, Louisiana. Cancer Alley is an 85 mile stretch of over 200 petrochemical facilities beginning in Baton Rouge (25.4% poverty) stretching past New Orleans (27.3% poverty) and towards the coast. Though comprising just 1/3 of the state's population, 80% of Louisiana's African-American residents live within three miles of a hazardous industrial zoned facility. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on


...up the Northeast...

Burlington, VT. "They think I am stealing something because I have two kids and a stroller. If you get mad you are just giving them more reason to discriminate against you." Burlington is a city in Chittenden County, Vermont. The population is 42,417 and 25.1% live below the poverty level. "You just got to keep calm and suck it up." #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on
Erie, PA. Pistolvania. "The first 15 days of July featured two gunshot-related homicides, at least nine shootings that wounded people, a shots-fired investigation in which a police officer was fired upon and at least two armed robberies." Erie is a city in Erie County, Pennsylvania. The population is 101,786 and 27.8% live below the poverty level. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on


...and completing the circle in the Northwest.

#Repost @msnbcphoto
・・・
Between 2009 and 2013, some 41.5% of Flint's residents lived below the poverty line, compared to just 16.8% of the rest of the state. A quarter of its families have an annual income of below $15,000 a year. The city's child poverty rate of 66.5% is nearly 10 percentage points higher than Detroit's. Block by block, neighborhoods where GM had built houses for its workers were marked by the detritus of abandonment, crumbling homes and overgrown lots. Crime and despair began to fester. And generations of families barely making it replaced those that had once thrived. Often those families were one and the same. The population loss and economic collapse has compounded other issues, including access to quality education, healthcare and safety. There are also serious environmental concerns. When industry pulled out of the city, it left behind huge swaths of contaminated land. Aging and decrepit infrastructure, including a deteriorating water system, has meant dangerously high levels of toxins in the city's water supply. Today on MSNBC we launch Chapter 3 from our on-going feature, Geography of Poverty, “The Rust Belt: Once Mighty Cities in Decline - An auto giant's exit brings Flint to its knees" by photographer @mattblack_blackmatt and reporter Trymaine Lee. You can see the latest installment of this in-depth feature with detailed interactive graphics and powerful photography on msnbc.com/photography (link in profile) Thank you to our partners on this project the @pulitzercenter, the @economichardship and the @magnumfoundation
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on
Fort Yates, ND. "The poverty that has been imposed, and the taking of our riches, says it all for their American Dream. It's very different for us." Fort Yates is a town in Sioux County, North Dakota. The population is 2,386 and 44.3% live below the poverty level. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on
Pasco, WA. Pasco is a city in Franklin County, Washington. The population is 59,781 and 21.5% live below the poverty level. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on


Black's roadtrip shows us how poverty isn't an isolated problem caused by individual failure. It's a systemic issue that connects (too) many communities.

As he explained to Time:

"'What really dawned on me is how connected these places are,' he adds. 'I've driven all the way across the country, but in a lot of ways I feel I still haven't left the Central Valley. It feels like one place. Uniting them in this kind of visual document is challenging but immensely satisfying because it feels like I'm making a statement that needs to be made.'"

And now folks around the world can get a rare look into these all-too-common, greatly hidden pockets of American poverty. And they're struck by it.

Each Instagram post includes comments from users — many who share that they have a new awareness of poverty throughout the U.S. And it's not just Instagrammers who are impressed. Black's photography has received critical acclaim, including a nomination from Magnum Photos.

Says Black to Time, "A lot of people have been blown away by it. It's not so much about the individual circumstances as it is about the collective whole."

via ABC and Bee Gees / YouTube

A year ago a woman in Pearland, Texas helped save her husband's life because of her quick thinking and the sweet, four-on-the-floor disco beat of the Bee Gees.

After finishing a two-mile run with her husband Quan, Ganesa Collins watched him fall to the ground. "We sat on the bench, and he was in front of me," Collins told ABC. "I was standing behind and stretching, and he just went face forward. His head hit the dirt."

She quickly called 911 and the operator said he was having a heart attack.

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via ABC and Bee Gees / YouTube

A year ago a woman in Pearland, Texas helped save her husband's life because of her quick thinking and the sweet, four-on-the-floor disco beat of the Bee Gees.

After finishing a two-mile run with her husband Quan, Ganesa Collins watched him fall to the ground. "We sat on the bench, and he was in front of me," Collins told ABC. "I was standing behind and stretching, and he just went face forward. His head hit the dirt."

She quickly called 911 and the operator said he was having a heart attack.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."