Photo Friday with Matt Eich’s Carry Me Ohio
"Most of the time I make pictures because it seems like the only way to articulate thoughts that are still forming, that I have not yet found the words for."
An extensive photo essay produced over six years, Matt Eich’s Carry Me Ohio, alternates between hope and despair. The complexity and depth of emotions contained in these photographs are difficult to explain. At once, we are presented with utter poverty, illness, and violence, then we find intimate family moments, second chances, and small victories.
The young Virginian artist began the project as a photojournalist student at Ohio University, and pursued the project throughout his university career. Over the years, he gained the trust and friendship of his subjects. Some images are so delicate and private, the viewer feels like an intruder. It’s apparent that Eich became so close with his subjects that they entirely forgot his presence.
In his statement on the project, Eich explains that this impoverished area of Southern Ohio was a rich mining community between the 1820s and 1960s. Once the mining corporations stripped the area of its resources, they left, taking families’ sources of income along with them. In an interview, Eich concisely articulates this as a pattern throughout America when he states, “The American Dream in many ways was built on the backs of these people that are largely forgotten, and that’s not just in Ohio, but that’s something you can find in any state that you go to.”
When we consider the consequences of mining companies that fully extract an area’s natural resources, we usually lament the environmental destruction this causes, but Eich reminds us of the damage this brings to families and communities as well. He explains the lasting impression this has caused in the closing lines of his statement on the project:
"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."
You can find the rest of the photo essay here.