An Inward Glimpse: The Fragility of Family

In a moment of uneasiness, Matt Eich turns his lens towards his closest relationships.

© Matt Eich, from the series, Will You Be Mine?

The way Matt Eich talks - choosing the words, the tone, and the pauses in between them - echoes the way he frames and photographs: measured, considerate, careful, present. In his latest work, Will You Be Mine?, Eich chronicles the intimate relationships unfolding within his family and kins. Quiet moments of daily life - his wife, children and relatives interacting with each other; a sense of place around his house in Charlottesville, Va.; his young daughters playing together or with nature; an intimate hug - overall, the portrait of a family living and growing together.  

© Matt Eich, from the series, Will You Be Mine?

A portrait and long-form project photographer based in Virginia, Eich is not new to portraying people up close, capturing private moments in personal settings. He applies an intimate touch to physical spaces too, as he did while exploring the “American condition” in Carry Me, Ohio.

Turning the lens inward, though, to capture his own personal relationships, was new to him: “It’s easier and it’s harder,” Eich says. “It's easier because I know them, and I live with them and I see them fairly regularly, and it's more difficult because the stakes are a little bit higher, these are the people who I love and this is their life,” he says.

© Matt Eich, from the series, Will You Be Mine?

Will You Be Mine? - a black-and-white body of work whose title echoes the closing line of a note his wife wrote him - came to be in a moment of uneasiness: work was precarious as he was moving from Norfolk to Charlottesville, Va.; his siblings were going through the hassles of their own lives; and his parents were facing a separation. To make sense of it all, Eich started photographing what he saw around him. Three years in the making, Will you be mine? will soon become a book.

As the complexity of reality chimed in, Eich composed it in layers: the sense of youth and the passage of time, a playful freedom and the stillness of a contemplative moment. In one picture, a caterpillar crawls up the shirt of his eldest daughter, between her hanging braids, a memory from spring when caterpillars emerge in the backyard and the kids trap them in glass jars. In a family portrait, Eich’s wife shaves his head while resting her hand on his bare back, and their two daughters pose, one hopping out of the shed and the other curiously nearing the camera, a moment Eich describes as the combination of stage and serendipity.

© Matt Eich, from the series, Will You Be Mine?

At the time, slowing down was indispensable, as reality revealed itself to a contemplative gaze: “I need to be ready and waiting and watching, and things would sometimes speak to me,” Eich says. Capturing his parents in their moments of fragility was not easy. Sitting side by side on a bench in Eich’s backyard - his father throwing a ball to the younger daughter, his mother talking on her phone - Eich frames their distracted presence through the shimmering surface of a bubble: “It speaks to the fragility of their relationship, of any relationship, where we are living in a bubble quite literarily and in some ways… it can pop, at any moment, and shatter the illusion of togetherness and understanding that we have.”

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Matt Eich is a photographer working on long-form essays about the American Condition. To see more of his work, visit his PHmuseum profile.

Lucia De Stefani is a multimedia reporter focusing on photography, illustration, culture, and everything teens. She lives between New York and Italy.

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