Matt Eich is a photographic essayist working on long-form projects related to memory, family, community, and the American condition.
Matt's projects have received support from an Aaron Siskind Individual Photographer's Fellowship, a VMFA Professional Visual Arts Fellowship, and two Getty Images Grants for Editorial Photography. He is the author of three monographs. He was an artist in residence at Light Work in 2013 and is invited to a Robert Rauschenberg Residency in 2019.
Eich has taught photography at Syracuse University and The George Washington University. In spring of 2019 he will teach a course at Virginia Commonwealth University. Matt continues to accept commissions and resides in Charlottesville, Virginia with his family.
PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: I Love You, I’m Leaving
2015 – present
My introduction to photography was in childhood, as my grandmother was dying of Alzheimer’s disease. The hopelessness of her plight triggered something within me, and when my grandfather handed me a camera, making photographs became a way of stabilizing the insecurity of memory and accessing emotional resonance. If we are at risk of forgetting too much of our world, and ourselves, photography is the antidote.
I created this work during a time of general domestic unease, when my parents separated after 33 years of marriage, my siblings all experienced drastic changes in their lives, my wife, children and I moved to a new city, and my last living grandparent passed away.
The title of this series, I Love You, I’m Leaving, stems from the constant rhythm of my peripatetic life. It holds true when I leave my family to photograph strangers, and leave strangers to return home.
This series borrows from personal experience, and the visual language of the everyday in order to create a fictional account that mirrors my reality. Photographs are reductions, distillations, half-truths and complete fabrications. They can only describe the surface of things, while I am interested in the intangible - memory and emotional resonance.
Despite our intimacy, the people I am closest to are unknowable, and will always remain a mystery to me. I photograph with the knowledge that our place in this world is tenuous, comprised of little more than memory and story. Memory is fragile; the moments are fleeting and have to be wrestled into a permanent state.
When and where did I Love You, I’m Leaving begin?
This project began in 2015 when I was working towards an MFA in Photography from Hartford Art School. It began as a continuation of the family photographs I had made for years. I became frustrated with my inability to break free from previous modes of working, and after months of spinning my wheels, the early photographs in this series started to rise to the surface. While the majority of the work was being made I was really struggling with my creative process and my family was undergoing a lot of stressful changes (separations, moves, deaths, etc). Making the work helped me to get through this, and a year after completing my MFA I published the work in book form. As that was wrapping up I felt the urge to continue with the work, so I've been making new images in this series without any real plan of what to do with them. The work has continued to tour around in exhibition form, most recently at Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Oregon and Cassilhaus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I've tried to add new pieces to the exhibition when it feels appropriate. Because of the intimate nature of this work I hope that it continues for the foreseeable future.
Where do you see this project going?
That's always a question for me. After the work is "done" and published and exhibited, what compulsion drives it forward? I kind of like having all the pressure off, and no expectations of the work. Then it can just be whatever it wants to be, and I don't have to rush it or force it in any capacity. I'm not sure where I see this project going, just that it will continue and it has and will continue to bleed into other personal projects and commissions that I'm creating for clients.
What helps you sustain your current creative practice?
Sustaining my creative practice has been more of a challenge in recent years. I'm 32-years-old now, with two kids. In my 20s, I didn't feel such a desperate need for external influence on my work. I was enamored with the medium of photography and that was enough. Now I find myself growing disillusioned with the industry as a whole, and wanting to distance myself from it without going broke. I don't have a "day job" - I've been a freelance photographer for almost 14 years. Recently I started adjunct teaching, which has been really exciting in many ways, and draining in others. It's impacted my ability to make work, though I love being around young artists that are hungry to learn and grow.
Music has always been an important part of my creative process ... it's just there, in my head, in my studio space, whenever I'm making or editing work. More recently poetry has been creeping in, and over the holiday break I began painting, which is completely new to me. In the coming years, I'm hoping to make my practice more multi-disciplinary, just to maintain a fresh way of looking, thinking, and working.
What’s next for you?
To conclude "The Invisible Yoke" series, I have two books in the works that are slated for publication with Sturm & Drang in 2019 and 2020. My mind is already wandering past that to future publications that I am creating work for. It's rare that I have an idea firmly in place while I am making work, it often only emerges in time. In the first half of 2019, I'll be doing some lectures and workshops, a couple of exhibitions, teaching a documentary photography course at Virginia Commonwealth University, hopefully making some new work, participating in a Robert Rauschenberg Residency from June-July, and then, who knows?
If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of Sin & Salvation in Baptist Town, follow the link below:
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