CARRY ME OHIO
“That the poor are invisible is one of the most important things about them. They are not simply neglected and forgotten as in the old rhetoric of reform; what is much worse, they are not seen.” - Michael Harrington
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.
My purpose in creating these images is to show the effect of corporate greed in a forgotten region of the United States. Now is the time to look inward and investigate the issues that lurk below the surface within our country. It’s the first step to resolving them.
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.
Matt Eich (b. 1986) is a freelance photographer whose work is rooted in memory, both personal and collective and he strives to approach every photograph with a sense of intimacy. While he has worked on five continents, Matt’s images focus on his own back yard, often exploring communities, the issues they face and their sense of identity. His clients include National Geographic, Mother Jones, TIME, AARP Bulletin, The FADER, Smithsonian and others. In 2009 Matt won POYi's Community Awareness Award, The Magenta Foundation's Bright Spark Award and was selected for the 16th World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass. More recently he was awarded the HCP Juried Fellowship at the Houston Center For Photography, was named one of PDN's 30 Emerging Photographers to Watch, received the F25 Award for Concerned Photography and grants from National Geographic, NPPA and the Aaron Siskind Foundation. Matt and his family now live in Norfolk, Virginia where he works on long-term projects.