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Camera as Catalyst: Matt Eich

Guest Post by Tara Kocourek

Photo by Kyoko TakenakaMatt Eich makes a point to photograph his subjects as if they are his own family. At the center of his personal mission, and the LUCEO Images’ mission, are relationships. This may defy the conventional notions of photojournalism and objectivity, but is hailed by the New York Time’s LENS Blog as the next model for photojournalism. The AU School of Communication Photo Lab and the Center for Social Media hosted Eich for a Camera as Catalyst discussion during Fotoweek DC 2011.

LUCEO Images formed in 2007 as the five founding members recognized that both the newspaper and agency industries were in quagmires and would continue to struggle for a long time. David Walter Banks, Kendrick Brinson, Matt Eich, Kevin German, Daryl Peveto, and Matt Slaby chose to break out and form a cooperative where they were in control of their careers and could pursue long-term documentary projects that they cared deeply about. By cutting out the middleman, the photographers could develop and nurture direct relationships with editors, clients, and publications, which is also their approach to projects.

Matt Eich/LUCEO ImagesIn 2010, Matt began the Sin and Salvation in Baptist Town project as an assignment with AARP Bulletin. He spent a few days in Mississippi with a writer, but felt compelled to return and convinced AARP to send him back. He continued to photograph the town, and was finally accepted into the community when he made the trip for a funeral. His presence is neither a burden nor a distraction to the 360-degree portrait he paints of this town and its residents. Rather, by looking at his images, you can feel a deep sense of intimacy with his subjects. By cultivating trust within his relationships with the townsfolk, Eich is able to break down the barrier that the camera often builds between photographer and subject.

Eich admits that he needs to be close to his subjects. His purpose is to show their joy and their despair without judgment. In contrast to many photographers who choose to maintain a distant objectivity, Eich allows the subjects into his life, whether or not they know it. His subjects have changed him and how he interacts with his own family. Eich believes that as a photographer, your stories and your photographs should change you.

Today, Eich continues this project, which has been recognized by Communication Arts, the PDN Photo Annual, a commendation from the Ian Parry Scholarship, a PDN Curator Award, and an Aaron Siskind Fellowship. The work was exhibited earlier this year at The Lorrie Saunders Art Gallery in Norfolk, Virginia and the Athens Photo Festival in Greece.