Connecting the dots

    For most of this year I have been keeping my head down, trying to work through some internal questions about life and photography. When CENTER announced their 2011 award winners earlier this year I was very humbled to have images recognized in the Editor’s Choice Award, juried by Todd James of National Geographic. Consistently applying to these sorts of things is part of what is required to market yourself as a photographer, reminding people who could hire you who you are, where you are and what you do. I did not expect that it would also set me on an introspective journey about my work and where I am headed creatively. 

     I entered four images from three different projects as singles, but in his responding statement to the work, Todd viewed them as pieces of a cohesive whole. Despite his kind words, this was initially disconcerting to me, but then I realized he uncovered a truth that had been broiling below the surface for sometime that I had not yet confronted. 

    “Matt Eich’s photographs seem full of mystery to me like a dark novel that is hard to put down because it promises to reveal its secret in the next moment. In only four frames he develops a compelling narrative. What is this world of gators, guns, ferrets and humid nights? The answer does not come easily. It is hard to look away.”

     

    The last few years I have pondered what draws me to certain places and to certain people, but I compartmentalize the different stories that I tackle, using the context of community and geography to provide a framework for the images. Deep down I know there is a thread, some imperceptible connection between all of these disparate images. They are emotional, they are American-made, they are my attempt to make sense of the country I live in. But to what end?

     The global superpower. The land of the brave and the home of the free. My generation is disillusioned with these tropes and we see the beginning of American entropy. We no longer build, we consume, we no longer think, we simply act. We invade under the pretense of defense. None of us know what this means for our future of that of our children but we know that the America of our fathers is evaporating into the ether. 

     In his recent blog post “Learning to touch bottom,” Peter McCollough writes about his identity as an American photographer and speaks to some of the issues that crop up in my work and that of my colleagues as a result of our visual heritage. Over-sterilization, the unconscious influence of our commercial culture. Peter’s words usually resonate quite clearly with me and this example was no exception. To me, the only way to move beyond this is to acknowledge our roots and the pitfalls of our cultural aesthetic. I am proud to be an American photographer and am enamored of the idea of searching for a deeper understanding of myself and my fellow countrymen through my photographic explorations of our homeland. Who are we? Where are we headed, as humans and as a nation? Only time will tell. 

    Oh say can you see? We see the beginning of American entropy. 

    So where is the thread?