Louis Frank Dematteis

Born in Palo Alto, California, in 1948, Louis Frank (Lou) Dematteis was one of five brothers and sisters in an Italian
American family very proud of its heritage.
He has been greatly influenced by the American social documentary photographers Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis, and by the Depression-era work of Dorothea Lange, made for the U.S. Farm Security Administration and by the photographers of Magnum Photos, expecially the “decisive moment” poetics from the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

He starts to be involved with photography after graduating in Political Science by experimenting during a journey in Italy with the narrative effectiveness of image.
He worked for international newsmagazines and newspapers, and later as a staff photographer for Reuters News Pictures, Dematteis has documented many important stories around the world. From 1985-1990 during the height of the U.S.-backed
Contra war, he was based in Managua, Nicaragua.
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.
In the 1990s Dematteis documented Vietnam during its opening to the world after years in isolation after the end of the Vietnam War, and in 2008 he published a book showing the devastating environmental and health effects of oil exploitation by Texaco/Chevron in the Ecuadoran Amazon.
At the beginning of the 2000 Millennium he started making documentary films. In 2010 he finished Crimebuster: A Son’s Search for His Father, dedicated to the life and career of Louis B. Dematteis, Lou’s father who was a famous District Attorney and Judge in Redwood City, California, and a pillar of Italian American Community. In 2022 he released his second documentary film: Keeper of the Fire, about the poet and activist Alejandro Murguía.

He has published several photo books including: Nicaragua: A Decade of Revolution, 1991; A Portrait of Vietnam, 1996; Crude Reflection: Oil, Ruin and Resistance in the Amazon Rainforest, 2008; Lowriders, 2016.
He has exhibited his photographs around the world and recently the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art purchased seven of his photographs for their permanent collection.
In the Summer of 2023 the Festa del Cinema de Reale e dell’Irreale shows his anthological exhibit Five From One. Cinque paesi, cinque storie in the Corigliano d’Otranto castle.
He lives in San Francisco where he produces feature and documentary films on subjects of social importance. His daughter Gabriela is a successful documentary filmmaker based in New York.

The story of Lou Dematteis's
most famous photo.