Ralph Eugene Meatyard
[Photographer, b. 1925, Normal, Illinois, d. 1972, Lexington, Kentucky.]
Am I looking at a mask or am I the mask being looked at?
... if [a photograph is] unbelievably real it becomes superreal or another kind of super real, better than real… [it] also can be, I think, so heartfelt that you almost can get a pang of compassion for the thing.
I have always tried to keep truth in my photographs. My work, whether realistic or abstract, has always dealt with a form of religion or imagination.
I like the obvious statement, although some people might wish to think they aren’t there, that they will go away with time.
I found out that I could not choose a subject, throw it out of focus, and then have a good picture. I found that I had to learn to see No-focus from the beginning.
I think I have been able to eliminate the idea of a third person: the Intruding Photographer.
I want to get people to read stone, tree, so forth & so on through the construction of the picture, to lead them to these things exactly as if it were written out on a page. I think it can be done.
I work in several different groups of pictures which act on and with each other—ranging from several abstracted manners to a form for the surreal. I have been called a preacher—but, in reality, I’m more generally philosophical. I have never made an abstracted photograph without content. An educated background in Zen influences all of my photographs. It has been said that my work resembles, more closely than any photographer, “Le Douanier” Rousseau—working in a fairly isolated area and feeding mostly on myself—I feel that I am a “primitive photographer.”