Ralph Eugene Meatyard

Discussion in 'Book, Magazine, Gallery Reviews, Shows & Contests' started by david b, Apr 14, 2005.

  1. david b

    david b Member

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    I just picked up the new REM book from photoeye and it is very well down with many, many photographs.

    If you like his work, hell even if you don't, it's worth a look.

    (Spelling out his initials REM and realizing his was an optomotrist is kind of weird)
     
  2. Earl Dunbar

    Earl Dunbar Member

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    David: I've long been an admirer of Meatyard. When I first started in photography, I somehow discovered him, or perhaps was directed to him by my tutor, I can't remember the circumstances. His photographs, besides being incredibly well crafted, draw you in, in a way few other photographers do.

    Then I found out that he and my dad went to the same high school, and indeed my dad knew him! Too bad Meatyard died young.

    Earl
     
  3. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    I gotta get this book. Meatyard was one of my early influences. Back then, I had no idea what his pictures meant but I liked them anyway.

    Okay. I still don't know but I still like them.
     
  4. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    There is hope for the part time photographer! When I first saw his work, I was told that he only did his printing during a two week period each year.

    I don't understand it either, but it is different. Especially when you consider what contemporary photography was when he made his photographs.
     
  5. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    I enjoyed the exhibition of his work in late January or early February in the International Center of Photography in NYC. I also must say I don't understand a lot of his work, but what I liked, I liked immensely.
     
  6. felipemorgan

    felipemorgan Member

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    The meaning of Meatyard

    To me, Meatyard's photos are very much about the experience of being at once at home and an alien in the setting of the Southeastern United States. I think Meatyard must have felt a grim dis-ease when he looked on his native culture and saw a cancerous racism and frustrating superficiality embedded in the fabric of "normal" life. While I think there are many ways of interpreting his photographs, I see them as an exploration of this dark corner of Southern culture.

    Certainly a good read of "The Life You Save May be Your Own" by Flannery O'Connor (any of her short stories really...) would be a fine starting point for someone who feels like an outsider when looking at Meatyard's photos. O'Connor and Meatyard both have a way of critiquing that is at once stern and loving.

    Meatyard's certainly an inspiring one. I've read that he photographed primarily on weekends, and developed film and printed once yearly during his two weeks vacation. He had a fully engaged mind; read, listened to, and digested everything he could get his hands on; and thankfuly left some photographic illuminations of the interior of his mind for the rest of us to appreciate.

    --Philip.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 19, 2005
  7. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    Actually, a biography of Meatyard that have I read indicated the guy was about as traditional and conservative as they came at the time. He certainly had some differences with the prevailing attitudes of the time--especially about segregation of the races--but he lived a life and professed a philosophy entirely in line with the conservative surroundings in which he lived. That's why his photographs are so damn intriguing and enigmatic.
     
  8. felipemorgan

    felipemorgan Member

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    Thanks for the comment, Lee. The biographies of Meatyard in the original Aperture monograph and the Jargon Society monograph give a different picture. Meatyard's more-than-passing interest in Zen Buddhism is the main example I see of how his life approach was not a traditional and conservative approach to life in South in the 60's.

    I guess the best thing about photographic legends, aside from the pictures themselves, is the stories that grow up around the men and women who made the pictures.

    A wise one once said that we see things as we are, not as they are. Perhaps this truth is at play in my analysis of Meatyard and his photographs.

    Regards,
    --Philip.
     
  9. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    Most of the information I have on Meatyard's life and work comes from the Akron Art Museum's publication in 1991. It contains several essays about Meatyard by friends such as Van Deren Coke and Wendell Berry.

    One of the essays, by David L. Jacobs includes Meatyard's working methods (he was sort of dictatorial), his lack of concern for the final print (he did not print archivally, for instance) and his conventionalism. Jacobs included the observation as to how we look at Meatyard's photographs from our own perspective and our interpretations about his conscious intentions should be "severely qualified if not rejected altogether". Meatyard is described as a conservative, middle-class Southern businessman who frequently had severe and heated disagreements with his liberal friends over the Vietnam War, among other things. Jacobs drew the conclusion that Meatyard's work is devoid of all political intent and "dwelt more in the realm of inner consciousness than in the social and polical fabric."

    When I first saw some of Meatyard's photographs, it was in the early 1970's soon after his death. I guess I drew conclusions about his meaning based on my own perspective at the time. It wasn't until later that I came to the conclusion that I really don't know what the hell he was saying other than some pretty basic observations--Lucybelle Crater had something to do with identity, for instance. The more I knew, the less I knew. That's probably as Zen as it gets. That's why I continue to be fascinated by Meatyard's photography.
     
  10. felipemorgan

    felipemorgan Member

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    Thanks for the illuminating comments Lee. I'm glad to have fuller information on Meatyard's persona.

    --Philip.