quarry, central Kentucky

I have always been fascinated by this strange, enigmatic image shot just inside the mouth of a limestone quarry in central Kentucky.

the almost surreal doubling of the images in the still water and the two object groups, one in shadow, one in the light, are as close to the everyday oddness of the photos of fellow Kentuckian Ralph Eugene Meatyard.   My earlier posts on this work:

https://mgerwing.wordpress.com/2009/03/13/the-final-rem-post-ralph-eugene-meatyard/

(photo by Mark Gerwing, around 1989)

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the final REM post – Ralph Eugene Meatyard

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

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Romance (N.) from Ambrose Bierce #3, 1962

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Lucybelle Crater and her 40-year old son, Lucybelle Crater, c. 1969-71

This last photo is from a series of ‘portrait’ photos of Meatyard’s friends and family, all with the Lucybelle Crater masks.  A prolific collector of odd and unusual names, Meatyard struck upon “Lucybelle Crater” and made her family.

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.

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

REM – Ralph Eugene Meatyard

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

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Madonna, 1964

as mentioned in yesterday’s post, Meatyard often used his family in poses in his work.  These photos are not portraits, the people in them as much props as the old buildings, masks and objects around them. Often these photos are more an abstract study of light and shadow, mass and profile.

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No-Focus #2 (Figures) 1960

This second photo is a portrait of a kind of human connection, the abstraction of focus being the tool of expression.  This focus, and lack of focus, was frequently used by Meatyard.  Initially I think it was to further remove his explorations from the realm of documentation, allowing the camera to do what it does best – simply a light sensitive tool.  Tomorrow’s post will have some more of these out-of-focus studies, taking them into the territory of the psychological space of the earlier portraits while maintaining a kind of abstraction.

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.

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 (Boy holding flag and doll), 1959

Meatyard often used his children in posed shots, most commonly within old, abandoned buildings around northern and central Kentucky.

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Untitled (Child as a bird), c. 1960

there is an undoubtedly kind of spooky character to most of these photos, both in the old building’s sense of decay and abandonment, but especially as contrasted to the melancholy of youth.

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Untitled (Boy below white mask and broken mirror), 1962

these are not portraits in any sense, more metaphors of time, loss, promise and fragility.

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.

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

this is the first of a few posts this week about the work of photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard

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Untitled, (Red River Gorge #21: fog on stream) c. 1967-71

I first ran into his work while in undergrad at the University of Kentucky.  Meatyard was a local Lexington, Ky optician who became interested in lenses and photography and continued to take photos on the weekends up until his death in 1972.  At Kentucky, I uncovered negatives and prints by him, beautiful and disturbing, in the university photo archives.

His work was varied and his explorations with the camera were wide-ranging though his photos were mostly taken in and around northern Kentucky, with his family and friends as often-used subjects.

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Untitled (One-armed man with mannequin and mirror), c. 1958-62

This week I am going to post photos by Meatyard that span his artistic career from the ‘zen’ nature photos through the disturbing mask portraits.

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.