Ralph Eugene Meatyard // Untitled // 1960-1962 // Gelatin Silver Print

Welcome to #10 in our new series Poignant Pics where I’ve asked photo curators, collectors and makers to write about a photograph or two that, in one way or another, has significantly impacted their cerebral cortex. The next few weeks we are proud to feature the Poignant Pics of several photographers and Diffusion alum participating in a group exhibition “A Cartography of Dreams” at Dimbola Museum Galleries produced by Reclaim Photography Festival.

Fran Forman recounts her discovery of Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s photographs in the Swiss publication, Camera.

Finding a New Reality in a Meatyard

When I was a child, I thought there were two types of photographs: well-composed and unadorned images that accompanied news stories published in Life and Look magazines, and snapshots of family members squinting into the sun or appearing with their heads out of the frame. As I was obsessive about drawing (having no other talents), I often copied the photographs from the magazines. It wasn’t until the 70s when I first saw the photographs of Ralph Eugene Meatyard in the Swiss publication, Camera, that I understood that a photographic image could combine both composition and emotion, and engage me in the way the renown photographers of Life and Look could, but with an air of mystery and magic.

for who among us doesn’t wear masks when out in the world?

Meatyard (1925–1972) was a Lexington, Kentucky optician and an “amateur” photographer who persuaded family and friends to pose in his constructed tableaux. First he picked a location, usually abandoned and derelict buildings and landscapes that reminded me of the back-water hills of Maryland, and then he arranged his people, having them move or stand still in various poses. His staging included props such as masks, dead birds, dolls and objects found in junk shops. It was his incessant use of masks that probably first drew me to his work, for who among us doesn’t wear masks when out in the world?

Although he worked full time as an optician, he read constantly and was inspired by philosophy, history, music, and poetry, and his images were replete with literary and poetic allusions. I was drawn immediately into his surrealistic world, both disturbing and familiar. It was then that I began experimenting with long exposures, movement, masks, and constructed scenes to evoke personal history, loss and memory.

Fran Forman


Fran Forman‘s photo paintings have been exhibited widely, both locally and internationally, and are in many private collections as well as the permanent collections of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Grace Museum, and the County Down Museum, NI. She is a Resident Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center, Brandeis University, a recipient of several grants and Artist Residencies and is represented by SusanSpiritus Gallery (California), Pucker Gallery (Boston), AfterImage Gallery (Dallas), and Photo Méthode (Austin, Texas). Featured in many publications, her award-winning monograph, Escape Artist: The Art of Fran Forman, was published in 2014. This past year, Fran has mounted solo exhibitions at The Fox Talbot Museum (England), The Pucker Gallery (Boston), and Open Shutter Gallery (Colorado).

Fran’s work is currently in a group exhibition, “A Cartography of Dreams” at Dimbola Museum & Galleries with the works of artists Paul Biddle, Tami Bone, and Jonah Calinawan. The exhibition was produced by Reclaim Photography Festival in association with Dimbola Museum & Galleries. Don’t miss this show that runs to January 1, 2017!

For more information please visit:
www.dimbola.co.uk
www.franforman.com
www.amillionsuns.com
www.paulbiddle.com
www.tamibone.com
www.reclaimphotographyfestival.org

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