Michael Disfarmer (1884-1959), Two Men and One Woman Standing, One Man in Overalls, Other Man in Military Uniform, c.1940, vintage gelatin silver contact print, 5 x 3 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of James E. and Debra S. Pearl, 2018.
This Memorial Day we honor all those who have paid the ultimate price serving in the United States Armed Forces. Arkansas photographer, Michael Disfarmer, captured rural America one portrait at a time. Michael Meyer was born in 1884, the sixth child of German immigrants, and changed his name to Disfarmer “because he thought of himself as neither a Meyer nor a farmer”. His rejection of family and their livelihood led the reclusive and eccentric Disfarmer to photography. In his thirties, he constructed a photography studio on the back porch of his Heber Springs home; after a tornado destroyed the house, he opened a new portrait studio on Main Street. As the town photographer, he captured documentary style portraits of the local people. During the World War II years, Disfarmer photographed many soldiers with their families and loved ones; the pictures were mementos carried to the front lines or tender reminders for those on the home front. Genuine and direct, his portraits form a compelling body of work that reveals across section of middle America from 1930 til his death in 1959.