Black was born in Ohio. He bought his first camera — a Pentacon — in East Berlin when he was 14. Some of the first photographs he shot were black-and-white images of East Berlin. Black attended high school in West Berlin and has returned many times, camera in hand. He studied photography, anthropology, and political economy at the University of California (Santa Cruz and Berkeley), graduating with honors, and the Chancellor's Award for Art. Black studied film in the cinema department at San Francisco State University. His first film, Two Eggs Any Style, won the Western States Student Academy Award. He has shot many documentaries since and has worked twice with the American director Jon Jost in Rome. Black is also the recipient of a stipend from the Academy of Arts in Berlin