p4, it's Tom Waits (Mule Variations album)
Ralph Eugene Meatyard
Ralph Eugene Meatyard, who was born in Normal, Illinois in 1925 and died of cancer in Lexington, Kentucky in 1972, worked his entire adult life as an optician, making lenses for glasses. Though he took and developed thousands of pictures, only a sampling of his work has been published.
Of all the photographers of the ordinary, Ralph Eugene Meatyard is perhaps the most oddball, giving reality a flip that often puts it into the realm of sur-reality. His creepy, staged shots of family and friends in strange masks but homey settings, or unmasked in derelict places that turn spooky, are weirdly unsettling while at the same time involved with the familiar interactions of everyday life.
Like any fond father, Meatyard photographed his children growing up. But it wouldn't do just to shoot them in usual haunts. He liked to take his wife and their three children to broken-down houses around Lexington, Ky., the town he lived in most of his life, and depict them playing, jumping and rolling around, wearing masks or making faces, in dank interiors with broken windows, or standing aimlessly in front of the ruined facades.
The mask worn by the child at the bottom of the bleacher steps (a 1964 photograph titled Romance (N.) From Ambrose Bierce #3, see first pic below) would later be the face of the central figure in Meatyard’s last project before his untimely death: the Lucybelle Crater series, a fictional family photo album where Meatyard would dispense with the murky background and rely entirely on the transgressive impact of his masked figures nonchalantly inhabiting the daylit world like regular folk--as if they belonged.
At a time when photographs tended to document the world unadorned, the expressive quality of Meatyard’s pictures was generally out of favor with the artistic community of the 1950s. It was basically not until the 1970s that his work came to any notable prominence. Though he assigned himself the title “amateur” (and wore it proudly), he was long disappointed that his contributions to photography were not more widely recognized. In response to his omission from the 1964 edition of Beamont Newhall’s seminal History of Photography, Meatyard mounted a print of Romance (N.) From Ambrose Bierce #3 as the frontispiece in his own copy.