Watch Matt Eich talk from opening night.
Press about the Exhibition
Chicago Magazine—The Absolute Best Things to Do in February
Chicago Magazine—21 Art Gallery Exhibits to See in Chicago
Photographer's Statement (2010)
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.
In this series of images I show the isolated and trapped residents of Southeastern Ohio. From Hercules the German Shepherd, chained to his house in the snow to Timmy, asleep on the couch, trapped in his body and requiring around the clock care from his family. Despite their bleak surroundings there is still a sense of whimsy and beauty in the lives of the region’s occupants. They opened their homes to me and this is my love song to the place I once lived.
Poverty is more than the lack of monies; it is the deprivation of opportunity and has a lasting emotional resonance for the individuals who live within its grasp. These images strive to remember a forgotten place and a unique time in American history.
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