curiosities and nostalgia

The masked photos by Ralph Eugene Meatyard

Untitled, 1964 – The Fraenkel Gallery

This time, creepy has a cool backstory.

Meatyard was a Navy man during WWII, who later studied dentistry and decided to become an optician fell in love with photography in 1950. That year he purchased a camera when his first son Michael was born and he wanted to start capturing the memories. Meatyard was a considered himself an amateur photographer, but his work exhibited along the likes of Ansel Adams and Harry Callahan. Beaumont Newhall, director of the George Eastman House listed Meatyard as one of the “new talents” in the photography field in 1961.

It took a visit to a Woolworth’s that gave Ralph Eugene Meatyard an idea. Rubbery latex masks found in the store inspired him to complete a series of photos that he would use on his closest subjects: his family. Moving away from family portraits, Meatyard’s family donned masks and posed themselves in various settings such as baseball parks and abandoned places. The photos displayed are eerie, but also depict the amazing out-of-the-box creativity of “what if” by coming across props and masks readily available at a store.

Untitled, ca. 1960 – The Fraenkel Gallery

Ralph Eugene Meatyard was 46 when he died in 1972. His photography was starting to be recognized. His work was ahead of its time coming from an All-American father, coach of a boy’s baseball team and president of the PTA. Having lived in Lexington, Kentucky, he chose not to focus on the landscape of his hometown, but employed props and places that once had stories of their own. His ideas made for the beauty in his photographs, but also, may have been how he saw the world, or the subconscious of the world.


Get the book of Meatyard’s collection, Dolls and Masks

Images from The Fraenkel Gallery


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