Ralph Eugene Meatyard
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|Ralph Eugene Meatyard|
May 15, 1925|
|Died||May 7, 1972
Life and career
Married to Madelyn McKinney, he moved to Lexington, Kentucky, to continue his trade as an optician. The company he worked for, Tinder-Krausse-Tinder also sold photographic equipment. The owners of this company were active members of the Lexington Camera Club, for which the Art Department of the University of Kentucky provided exhibition space.
Meatyard purchased his first camera in 1950 to photograph his son, Michael. He eventually found his way to the Lexington Camera club in 1954, and at the same time joined the Photographic Society of America. It was at the camera club that Meatyard met Van Deren Coke, an early influence behind much of Meatyard's work. He even exhibited work by Meatyard in an exhibition for the University entitled 'Creative Photography' 1956.
He continued to make work, usually in bursts during holidays, in his makeshift darkroom in his home, until his death in 1972. His approach was somewhat improvisational and very heavily influenced by the jazz music of the time.
Ralph Eugene Meatyard's death in 1972, a week away from his 47th birthday, came at the height of the "photo boom", a period of growth and ferment in photography in the United States which paralleled the political and social upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s. It was a time of ambition, not reflection, a time for writing résumés, not thoughtful and inclusive histories; in the contest of reputation, dying in 1972 meant leaving the race early. It was left to friends and colleagues to complete an Aperture monograph on Meatyard and carry through with the publication of The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater (1974) which he had laid out and sequenced before his death.
While he lived Meatyard's work was shown and collected by major museums, published in important art magazines, and regarded by his peers as among the most original and disturbing imagery ever created with a camera. He exhibited with such well-known and diverse photographers as Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Minor White, Aaron Siskind, Harry Callahan, Robert Frank, and Eikoh Hosoe. But by the late 1970s, his photographs seemed consigned to appear mainly in exhibitions of "southern" art. In the last decade, however, thanks in part to European critics, Meatyard's work has reemerged, and the depth of its genius and its contributions to photography have begun to be understood and appreciated. In a sense Meatyard suffered a fate common to artists who are very much of but also very far ahead of their time. Everything about his life and his art ran counter to the usual and expected patterns. He was an optician, happily married, a father of three, president of the Parent-Teacher Association, and coach of a boy's baseball team. He lived in Lexington, Kentucky, far from the urban centers most associated with serious art. His images had nothing to do with the gritty "street photography" of the east coast or the romantic view camera realism of the west coast. His best known images were populated with dolls and masks, with family, friends and neighbors pictured in abandoned buildings or in ordinary suburban backyards.
At the same time he often turned from this vernacular focus and, like such photographers as Henry Holmes Smith, Harry Callahan and others, produced highly experimental work. These images include multiple exposures and photographs where, through deliberate camera movement, Meatyard took Fox Talbot's "pencil of nature" and drew calligraphic images with the sun's reflection on a black void of water. However, where others used these experiments to expand the possibilities of form in photographs, Meatyard consistently applied breakthroughs in formal design to the exploration of ideas and emotions. Finally—and of great importance in the development of his aesthetic—Meatyard created a mode of "No-Focus" imagery that was distinctly his own. "No-Focus" images ran entirely counter to any association of camera art with objective realism and opened a new sense of creative freedom in his art.
- Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Phaidon Press, 2002 ISBN 0-7148-4112-9 pp.3-10
- Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Phaidon Press, 2002 ISBN 0-7148-4112-9 pp. 3–10
- Hall, James Baker, ed. Ralph Eugene Meatyard: Emblems & Rites (Millerton, New York: Aperture, 1974) There had already been an earlier book¬Ralph Eugene Meatyard¬done in 1970 by the Gnomon Press with an introduction by Wendell Berry and notes by Arnold Gassan.
- Szarkowski, John; Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960. (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1978) pp. 14 – 15. Among other statistics about the "photo boom," Szarkowski notes that between 1966 and 1970 "the number of students studying photography or cinematography at the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) increased from 132 to 4,175 ¬ a growth of over three thousand percent in four years".
- Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960.
- Meatyard, Ralph Eugene; & Davenport, Guy (Essay), 2005, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, (Steidl/ICP]
- Ralph Eugen Meatyard Phaidon Press 2002 ISBN 0-7148-4112-9
- Rhem, James; Ralph Eugene Meatyard: The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater and Other Figurative Photographs(D.A.P., 2002) 125 pages. Three critical texts, "Lucybelle" with 34 additional previously unpublished Meatyard photographs. ISBN 1-891024-29-9
- Rhem, James (Author); & Meatyard, Ralph Eugene (Photographer), 1999, Ralph Eugene MeatyardPhotopoche, No: 87’, (Centre National de Photo)
- Tannenbaum, Barbara (Editor); 1991, Ralph Eugene Meatyard: An American Visionary, Rizzoli.