REM – Ralph Eugene Meatyard

another in a series of posts this week about the work of photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard

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Untitled (Zen twig), 1963

Meatyard worked everyday as a local optician in Lexington, Kentucky.  For me, that makes the out-of-focus photos particularly interesting.

The function of focus is the work of the lens, often taken for granted.  The history of photography up to the 1950’s, and still beyond, has been at least primarily, one of documentation, of recording a moment, a false analog of our own vision.  The emphasis was on the light and shadow characteristics of film and negatives, the chemical process of revealing and fixing an image.  The lenses were tools, attached to the camera, that simply allowed the photographer to do that work.  But the lens is not like our primacy of vision, it focuses on a discreet distance and fixes that distance as an image.  A photograph may not be a record of a moment, it may not be a pattern of light and shadow, but it is most certainly a spatial tool, a recorder of a space.

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Untitled (Motion-Sound: facade with door) c. 1968-72

Meatyard employed the characteristics of lens focus in a number of photo series, especially ‘nature’ photos in and around Red River Gorge in Kentucky.

All the photos this week are scanned from the excellent book on Meatyard, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, An American Visionary published by the Akron Art Museum in 1991, editor Barbara Tannenbaum

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