Ralph Eugene Meatyard

Born in 1925 in Normal, Illinois (US)
Died in 1972 in Lexington, Kentucky (US)

Sans titre

Black and white photograph, gelatin-silver print
19,2 x 19,5 cm
Year of Purchase: 1987

The eleven photographs in the collection were taken by Ralph Eugene Meatyard between 1960 and 1971, a year before his death at the age of 46. But the content of the images created by this self-taught and provincial American has no need of dates, titles and commentaries. In the small city of Lexington where he was a professional optician, Meatyard led a peaceful and harmless family life. Despite this display of discretion, he showed noteworthy artistic ambition. His inspiration concealed disturbing stratagems which seemed to oppose and transcend a technique of which he had perfect mastery. At once cultivated and wild, his photographic approach reveals the strange facets of middle America (Meatyard was a lover of jazz and blues, just like the writers of the beat generation, whom he felt close to). The work does not really have any documentary value, it is purely contemplative and fictitious. Meatyard was fascinated by the mysticism of a man like Thomas Merton (who was a friend) and produced a meditative kind of photography, in black and white, which he applied to twigs, leaves, and the ruins of abandoned houses full of shadows and reflections… When people (relatives and friends) are introduced into the frame, they seem to be deformed by movement and disfigured by grotesque Halloween masks. They take on the appearance of disconcerting ghosts which only sensitive film can capture. The splendid prints which he himself produced thus have all the density of the paintings of artists such as Balthus and Magritte, whom he admired.

Olivier Goetz