Sin & Salvation in Baptist Town
by Matt Eich

project STATEMENT

Over the course of seven years I spent approximately 130 days in the town of Greenwood, Mississippi, as I considered the legacies of racism and segregation on the lives of people growing up in America today. The time spent was primarily focused on the Baptist Town neighborhood, a small, historic community cut off on all sides by train tracks.

In Greenwood, as in many Southern cities, structural inequalities create cycles of poverty and violence that too often result in young black men laying in caskets. The dynamics at play in this small Mississippi town reflect a larger set of connected issues that accumulate at the intersection of race and socioeconomics in America.

I am often surprised by how problematic photography can be. The way that I have tried to use the medium has been idealistic, if not naïve, and in some ways, I have been stumbling blindly through one of our country’s most complicated issues. Mississippi taught me many things—for example: documentary photography has its limitations, racism probably doesn’t look like you think it does, and it is nearly impossible to depict rich-and-poor, black-and-white, without vilifying or reinforcing stereotypes.

At best, I can only show a small portion of this incredibly beautiful and complicated place along with disconnected fragments of my own personal experiences. This work stems from my desire to better understand and counteract the deepening racial and socioeconomic rift in America. If images are capable of anything, I hope that they help plant seeds of empathy.

Mississippi is a microcosm of a story that plays out in every corner of America. History repeats itself. Our collective memory favors the convenience of amnesia over acknowledging the damage that we continue to inflict upon one another. Photography is an antidote.

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