Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mike Disfarmer Vintage Prints

December 6, 2008-January 31st, 2009

The gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of vintage photographs by American photographer Mike Disfarmer (1884 – 1959), who is considered to be one of the greatest portraitists in the history of photography.

Born Mike Meyer, the sixth of seven children to German immigrant parents, he was a renowned eccentric. After establishing his studio in Heber Springs, Arkansas, Disfarmer successfully expressed his discontent with his community in general, and his own family in particular, by legally changing his name to Disfarmer. In modern German "meier" means “dairy farmer”, and since he thought of himself as neither a "farmer," nor a "Meyer" he became "dis"- farmer. In later years he claimed that a tornado deposited him with the Meyer family.

His first studio was located in the rear of his mother’s house, but by the late 1930’s, Disfarmer became a fixture on Main Street; immortalizing the town’s people during a defining time in history when the Great Depression yielded to World War II. Using glass plates, Disfarmer photographed his subjects in north light and was notoriously obsessed with obtaining the correct light. Although he often spent over an hour perfecting the lighting, when he was ready to photograph he did so with very little notice given to the sitters. The resulting portraits are noted for their intense honesty, laid bare of artifice.

Disfarmer's work, salvaged and rediscovered by Peter Miller in 1974, was introduced to the world through the efforts of Julia Scully of Modern Photographer. Together they published a monograph with Addison House and sold modern enlargements from the original negatives. In 2004, an unprecedented two-year historical reclamation project was launched by photography collector Michael Mattis. A dedicated team of researchers examined family photo albums throughout Cleburne County, Arkansas and purchased over 3000 vintage photographs.

Disfarmer's photographs are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Arkansas Arts Center Museum, Little Rock, AR; and the International Center of Photography, New York, NY. His work has also been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout Europe and the United States.

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