Posts Tagged ‘Photography set to music: Disfarmer’

From the Disfarmer album by Bill Frisell and his string band

By Paul Goldfinger

I’ve wanted to set a soundtrack to photography, and we have done that recently on Blogfinger.  But, of course, it turns out that the idea is nothing new.

The story of Disfarmer is totally fascinating to me, for a number of reasons.  Mike Meyer (1884-1959)  lived in a small town in Arkansas called Heber Springs. There was something strange and unique about him.  Evidently he was a maverick, because he adopted the name Disfarmer, presumably to distance himself from his family’s farming roots.  He ran a portrait studio, and just about everyone in town was photographed by him during the ’40’s and ’50’s.  The images are those of rural folks at a particular time and place, but he was a very meticulous and inspired photographer; you can see  that by the haunting and beautiful quality  of his work.

He never achieved fame in his lifetime, but in the 1970’s, his negatives were discovered, and he became famous for “a career that embraced both obscurity and a rigorous aesthetic” (quote unknown source).

The great jazz guitarist Bill Frisell became interested in Disfarmer when he was commissioned by the Wexner Center of Art in Columbus, Ohio to write a score to accompany a retrospective of Disfarmer’s work. It was made into an album.  When Frisell’s string band performs this music, the Disfarmer images are shown behind the group.

This song, “I Can’t Help It  (if I’m still in love with you)” was written by Hank Williams. Click on the player below.

The slide show is of Disfarmer’s photography: He made portraits of Americans in rural Arkansas who were looking their best for this artist.   (run your cursor on the bottom to find a control to stop at each image)

The “Disfarmer Project” preserves the legacy of this artist’s work.  You should look at the short video about Disfarmer at their site:   link to the Disfarmer Project

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