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EPF 2014 – SHORTLIST
Sin and Salvation in Baptist Town
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For the last four years I have been drawn to Greenwood, Mississippi like a moth to a flame. Since 2010, I have explored a complex intersection of issues that span race, class, joblessness, opportunity, housing, education and segregation.
After years of making documentary images, I have grown frustrated with what photography is, and more interested in what it could be. I started making 6×7 images, a mixture of landscapes, documentary photographs, and most importantly, collaborative portraits. In this work I begin to blend these different representations of place with an emphasis on creating work that is less about my perspective as an outsider, and more about how the people I am photographing wish to be portrayed.
These collaborative portraits will become the basis of a public exhibition intended to create a safe space for dialogue about present race relations in Greenwood. I will partner with the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation to facilitate an open dialogue. The work will also live on a website where the community can upload their own text and images, thereby shaping the outcome of their story.
Additionally, I will collaborate with high school students from three different schools to teach children photography as a form of self-expression. These images made by students and other community-contributed content will become a part of the larger project, empowering the residents of Greenwood to portray themselves and their community from an insider view, to show a more balanced and nuanced perspective about life in this often stereotyped corner of America.
I seek to engage a historically divided community in a dialogue about present race-relations in the American South by minimizing my voice and presence while allowing the community to take the helm. We must acknowledge that the legacies of racism and segregation continue to impact people throughout our country economically and culturally, in persistent and often pernicious ways.
Matt Eich was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1986. He began working as a photographer while studying photojournalism at Ohio University for clients that include National Geographic, The New Yorker, GQ, Esquire, TIME, FADER, Harper’s, AARP, Apple, Tiffany & Company and others. He is currently pursuing his MFA in Photography from the Hartford Art School.
Matt has worked with support of grants from the Aaron Siskind Foundation, the Alexia Foundation, National Geographic Magazine and The Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography. His work has been exhibited widely and his prints are in the permanent collections of The Portland Art Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the New York Public Library.
These days Eich lives in Norfolk, Virginia with his family while accepting commissions and creating photographic essays about the American condition.