2014 Winners - Runner-up: Matt Eich
Matt Eich’s series The Invisible Yoke, still in progress, explores what it means to be American through depictions of poverty in rural Ohio, segregation and racism in Mississippi, and military and industry in Virginia. In almost every picture, Eich seamlessly links a geographic sense of place with the socioeconomic status of his subjects, zeroing in on revealing visual details with laser-like accuracy, without allowing them to overpower his subjects. He gets close, with people or animals often appearing in the foreground, and a sense of intimacy runs throughout the project. Many of his photographs are shot in private spaces that require personal access: backyards, bedrooms, bathtubs, and driveways.
The pictures are both poetic and raw, shying away from neither the beautiful nor the profane: a toddler and Chihuahua looking out a window held together by duct tape; the S-curve of an alligator’s body and the gun shooting its head; a young girl looking over her shoulder at the end of a tire track. Eich’s strong sense of color and eye for dramatic light add emotional weight, though the work remains within the bounds of documentary. And his natural storytelling abilities reveal the kinds of issues the subjects face, such as poverty, racism, family tension, and those unseen ideals that bind (or yoke) them together: identity, family, community. He seems always to be telling a personal story—one that, in turn, speaks to a larger collective American history and identity.
Matt Eich (born in Richmond, Virginia, 1986) lives in Norfolk, Virginia with his wife and two daughters. He studied photojournalism and earned a BS in visual communication at Ohio University. His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Portland Art Museum, and the New York Public Library. Most recently, he exhibited his work at the Gage Gallery at Roosevelt University, Chicago, and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, Virginia Beach. In 2011, he received an Aaron Siskind Fellowship and the National Geographic Magazine Grant for Photography. In 2012, he participated in Light Work’s artist-in-residence program, and in 2013 he received the Getty Images Grant for editorial photography.