Matt Eich (b. 1986) is a photographer and founding member of LUCEO. He studied photojournalism at Ohio University and has traveled to Peru, India, Rwanda and Botswana for an internship with National Geographic Magazine before returning to Ohio to complete his degree.
Eich has been named one of PDN’s 30 Emerging Photographers to Watch, selected for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass and is the recipient of the F25 International Award for Concerned Photography. His ongoing book-length projects have received grant funding from The Alexia Foundation, The National Geographic Innovation in Storytelling Grant and most recently an Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer’s Fellowship.
Carry Me Ohio Series
Southeastern Ohio is a place of great beauty and brokenness. A deeply distrustful and clannish mentality pervades the gently rolling hills as a result of years of exploitation by industries that have since abandoned the region and its inhabitants.
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 in large part a product of poverty.
Rampant unemployment, poor housing conditions, drug abuse and sub-standard schools have left many families here in crisis. When I began making these images 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 community abandoned by industry, it is not only the daily struggles but living without the opportunity for economic advancement which has a lasting emotional resonance. These images are my love song to southeastern Ohio.