Born in San Salvador, El Salvador, Carlos Blanco moved to San Francisco with his family in 1943.
Blanco was a self-taught photographer who documented the rise of the United Farm Workers and Cesar Chavez, the plight of indigenous tribes in Mexico, political turmoil in El Salvador and prison inmates at San Quentin.
Placing himself in personal danger, he traveled with and photographed the El Salvadoran leftist rebel group Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front during the civil war in El Salvador in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Blanco documented the war in El Salvador until he was told by friends in El Salvador that his ties to leftist groups made it unsafe for him to return there, Goff said.
Blanco photographed inmates at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County from 1983 to 1995. His documentary work at the prison was featured in an exhibit, "Images of San Quentin," at the La Raza Galeria Posada in Sacramento in 2006.
In 1982 Blanco received the Media Alliance Annual Photography award. In 2006 he was honored by the California State Senate with a Certificate of Recognition for his contributions to Chicano art and Hispanic culture.
After retiring from Sac State, Blanco continued his work as a documentary photographer. He traveled to Mexico and photographed indigenous tribes in the Chiapas region.