Posted by: Bryan W. – Jan 07, 2011
Winky takes the .40 and checks to see if there’s one in the chamber, stepping behind the abandoned building where the teenagers often hang out. POP! POP! POP! He shoots three times into the air. The woman raking her yard with a child 100 feet away doesn’t pay him any mind. The other kids are startled and Brandon jumps up and hurries away saying, “Damn Winky! That was some dumb shit.” They stash the gun under the abandoned building and continue rolling blunts, waiting for the cops to show but knowing that they won’t. Winky tells the other kids they’ve “gotta be hard”, and as the oldest of the group at 27, they believe him. He was sent to prison at 14 for seven and a half years. How can anyone expect a young man to reintegrate into society as a productive citizen after that? … from photographer Matt Eich’s blog, IN MY BACKYARD.
Commissioned by AARP Bulletin in April 2010 to make photographs for a story about rural healthcare, photographer and photojournalist Matt Eich headed to the blighted neighborhood of Baptist Town, an impoverished African American community in the Mississippi Delta town of Greenwood. According to Eich, the minute he stepped foot in Baptist Town, he knew that “it was magic.” After spending only 4 hours in the historic blues community, Eich instinctively knew that this was the first of many trips he would make there.
It was soon after his initial visit that Eich’s photographic project, SIN & SALVATION IN BAPTIST TOWN was born. This project represents the first chapter of a two-part exploration of contemporary race and class disparities in Greenwood, Mississippi where, says Eich, “neighboring communities are separated by fear, distrust, and a history of exploitation.”
Cut off on all sides by train tracks, Baptist Town is home to a population of 500 with an unemployment rate estimated at 90% and a host of ever-present social ills. According to Eich, the photographs, made between April and November, “focus on the dichotomy between light and dark, sin and salvation”. As Eich so thoughtfully states in his blog, “In a place like Baptist Town, Mississippi, there are two paths you can take in life, but the people I have encountered tread the line between the two, walking both in light and shadow. They are neither good nor evil, they are simply human.”
In 2011, Eich will literally step across the tracks surrounding Baptist Town and document Greenwood’s affluent white community “in order to visually introduce neighbors to one another in an honest and intimate way,” he says, adding that he hopes that by doing so he can “help foster understanding, dispel uncertainty and fear while bridging the gap between these two worlds.”
A graduate of Ohio University, Matt Eich is a freelance photographer and a founding member of the photo collective, LUCEO. 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.
As an award winning photographer, Eich’s accolades are many. In 2010 he was commended by the Ian Parry Scholarship for his project SIN & SALVATION IN BAPTIST TOWN, was awarded the F25 Award for Concerned Photography, and was named one of Photo District News’ 30 Emerging Photographers to Watch. He also has to his credit the POYi’s Community Awareness Award, The Magenta Foundation’s Bright Spark Award, the World Press Photo Joop Swart Master Class and more.
Eich’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, most recently with a solo exhibition of his award winning project, CARRY ME OHIO at The Houston Center for Photography in Houston, TX. Two photographs from the CARRY ME OHIO series were recently acquired by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for their permanent collection. Eich is currently preparing for a Feb 2011 solo exhibition of the project in Portland, OR.
Listed among Eich’s numerous clients are Apple, TIME, Newsweek, The New York Times, Mother Jones, National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, AARP Bulletin, and New York Magazine.
Norfolk, VA – Lorrie Saunders ArtGallery is pleased to present the work of photographer, Matt Eich, in the new exhibition, SIN & SALVATION IN BAPTIST TOWN, opening January 29 and showing through March 12, 2011. There will be an opening reception, Saturday, January 29, 7 – 9:30 pm.