In conversation with Valerie Chiang
This Is Not Your Family
Valerie Chiang: How long have you been working on these images, and how would you describe this body of work to someone?
Matt Eich: These pictures have been made over the past 18 months as I pursue an MFA in Photography at Hartford Art School’s International Limited Residency Program. I would describe them as an evolution of the family work that I began making as a child and have continued in my early 20s when I became a father and a husband. The motivation for making this work is to stabilize the frailty of memory, first and foremost. It should be part confession, part diary and part proclamation of love. My goal with these new pictures is to give more time and care to the image as opposed to my reflexive documentary approach.
VC: Forgive me for stating the obvious, but everyone in your immediate family besides yourself is female. Your work reminds me a little of Jo Ann Walters’ series Vanity + Consolation. I sense a similar admiration for the beauty of childhood, one that offers a glimpse into what it’s like to grow up female in America. Do you believe that your wife and daughters’ experiences have an impact on how you photograph them or portray them in your images?
ME: I cannot help but be influenced by my deep admiration of the strong women in my life and in the communities I have documented outside of my home. When photographing other communities I find myself drawn to flawed father figures struggling to do their best, and they are often anchored by a strong female figure. I also photograph my extended family, which includes my father, brother, brother-in-law and grandfather. In this family work my aim is not to over idealize childhood or motherhood but to examine some of the uncertainties that are wrapped up in family life, from the perspective of both the child and the adult. My view is that of a father who has many hopes and fears for his daughters as they grow into young women in a rapidly changing country. For better or worse, I have a tendency towards romantic light, which underscores some of my youthful idealism. I’m kind of a hopeless romantic and feel the need to fall in love with a person or a place in order to do them justice in a photograph. Assignments and other projects don’t always afford that opportunity, but with my family I have to embrace the reality of how I see them.
Full interview in Issue Three, which you can purchase here.