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EPF 2010 Finalist
Carry Me Ohio
Once known for its bounty of coal, salt, clay and timber, Southeastern Ohio was stripped of its resources by the mining corporations that thrived from the 1820s to the 1960s. When they had mined all that they could, the corporations left, leaving the communities with little but their cultural identity, which is a product of poverty.
For the past three years I have been documenting the people of this region as they attempt to recover from the aftermath of extractive industry. In photographing their daily life, I’ve explored the culture of the area, as well as on the crippling poverty that threatens to extinguish it. The foothills of Appalachia have been my home for the past five years. I met my wife here and our daughter was born here. Now, the same lack of opportunity that has plagued the residents of Southeastern Ohio for decades has forced us to move.
Rampant unemployment, poor housing conditions, drug abuse and sub-standard schools have left many families here in crisis. In 2006, Athens County, one of the poorest counties in the state, had a poverty rate of 27.4 percent and a per capita income of just $14,171. With the economic downturn of the United States these numbers have only gotten worse.
In this series of images I show the isolated and trapped residents of Southeastern Ohio. From Hercules the German Shepherd, chained to his house in the snow to Timmy, asleep on the couch, trapped in his body and requiring around the clock care from his family. Despite their bleak surroundings there is still a sense of whimsy and beauty in the lives of the region’s occupants. They opened their homes to me and this is my love song to the place I once lived.
Poverty is more than the lack of monies; it is the deprivation of opportunity and has a lasting emotional resonance for the individuals who live within its grasp. These images strive to remember a forgotten place and a unique time in American history.
Matt Eich (b. 1986) is a freelance photographer and founding member of LUCEO. His work is rooted in memory, both personal and collective and he strives to approach every photograph with a sense of intimacy. Matt’s images focus on his own back yard, often exploring communities, the issues they face and their sense of identity.
As a student Matt interned with National Geographic before returning to Ohio University to complete his degree. While finishing school Matt began working for clients such as Newsweek, Mother Jones, TIME, The FADER, Smithsonian, More and Apple. His accolades include POYi’s Community Awareness Award, The Magenta Foundation’s Bright Spark Award, the Joop Swart Masterclass, a Juried Fellowship at the Houston Center For Photography and being named one of PDN’s 30 in 2010.
Matt and his family now live in Norfolk, Virginia where he works on long-term projects while compulsively documenting everything around him.