Award-winning photographer Lou Dematteis has spent over 30 years working in the U.S. and around the world. A former staff photographer for Reuters News Pictures, Dematteis was based in Managua, Nicaragua, from 1985-90 during the height of the U.S.-backed Contra war. In 1986, his photographs of downed U.S. soldier-of-fortune Eugene Hasenfus received international recognition, including a citation from World Press Photo and inclusion in The New York Times’ and National Press Photographers Association’s Pictures of the Year. His photographic anthology of the Sandinista years, “Nicaragua: A Decade of Revolution”, was published by W.W. Norton in 1991.
Dematteis has exhibited extensively in the United States and abroad. In 1987, he organized a traveling exhibition of the work of six photojournalists from the U.S. working in Nicaragua entitled “War on Nicaragua”. In 1990, he exhibited a series of images from Nicaragua at the Ansel Adams Center in San Francisco, and in 1991, this work was shown at the Photographers Gallery in London.
In the 1990’s, Dematteis spent several years traveling to and documenting contemp-orary Vietnam, during a time when that country was opening up to the world after a long period of isolation following the end of the Vietnam War. Forging bonds with local photographers, in 1992 he directed and participated in the first exhibit by U.S. photogra-phers in Vietnam since the end of the war in 1975, and in 1994 he presented the first exhibit of Vietnamese photographers to be shown in the U.S. as well. His book “A Portrait of Viet Nam” is a look at contemporary Vietnam and was published by W.W. Norton in 1996.
His Vietnam work has been exhibited at the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery (1996), the Laguna Art Museum (1997), San Francisco City Hall (1998), Gallery Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam (1999), the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok (1999) and the Hemphill Gallery in Washington, DC (2002).
Dematteis first photographed in Ecuador in 1988. In 1993, he traveled to the Ecuadoran Amazon to document the damaging effects of Texaco’s (now Chevron) oil exploitation and resultant environmental pollution there. He has returned several times to continue this documentation and has most recently focused on the heath impacts on the people of the Amazon as a result of Texaco’s toxic contamination and their fight to get Chevron to clean up the environment. This work can be seen in his latest book “Crude Reflections: Oil, Ruin and Resistance in the Amazon Rainforest” (City Lights Books) and in a traveling exhibit of the same name.
Currently based in San Francisco, California, he works in documentary film as well as still photography. His work can be seen at: www.loudematteis.com.