Lou Dematteis

Documentary filmmaker, photographer

Award-winning photographer Lou Dematteis has covered issues of social, political and environmental importance around the globe for over 30 years. 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 Friends of Photography/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 contemporary 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. photographers 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).

In 1993, Dematteis traveled to the Ecuadoran Amazon to document the damaging effects of Texaco’s (now Chevron) oil exploitation and resultant environmental pollution, and has continued this documentation up to the present. This work can be seen in his book “Crude Reflections: Oil, Ruin and Resistance in the Amazon Rainforest” (City Lights Books 2008) and in a traveling exhibit of the same name. In 2007 he received an Open Society Institute (OSI) Documentary Photography Distribution Grant to take the exhibit to communities in the Amazon directly impacted by the oil contamination.

Currently based in San Francisco, California, he works in documentary film as well as still photography. His work can be seen at:

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