Michael Disfarmer

The eccentric photographer known as Disfarmer (1884-1959) seemed to be a man determined to shroud himself in mystery. Born Mike Meyers, the sixth of seven children in a German immigrant family, Disfarmer rejected the Arkansas farming world and the family in which he was raised. He even claimed at one point in his life that a tornado had lifted him up from places unknown and deposited him into the Meyers family.

In time Mike expressed his discontent with his family and farming by changing his name to Disfarmer. In modern German “meier” means dairy farmer, and since he thought of himself as neither a “Meyer” nor a “farmer,” Mike Meyer became “dis”- farmer. *

I fucking love him. Even before I knew about his made-up name, I fell in love with him. The photo above just stopped me in my tracks. Unlike Diane Arbus, he doesn’t seem to be unduly drawn to the grotesque. But he does manage to create an almost alarming sense of intimacy.

Explore his work here.

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11 Responses to Michael Disfarmer

  1. littlebadwolf says:

    the cherry sisters?

  2. honeypants says:

    It’s hard to look at something that old without my 21st Century post-feminist glasses on, but dear lord those photos made me want to be a man-hating lesbian! That is not to say I found those leather faced women attractive in the least. Times were different, I know. And it made me sad to see in those little children’s faces the hard old people they were going to turn out to be. Or maybe I’m just a hateful, jaded bitch.

  3. ali says:

    They look like a cross between tweedledee and tweedledum and the little daisy head flower girls from Alice in Wonderland.
    But maybe I am also a hateful jaded bitch disguised as a *whimsical* 20somethingyearold. Will spend some good time looking through the collection today.

  4. ali says:

    *you might like the new moby dick in pictures collection recently published by TinHouse.

    The guy who made the collection spent something like 4 years doing a watercolor or illustration or collage for each page of moby dick. the final product is incredible. I have a copy (gave it to myself for Christmas).
    his name is Matt Kish here is a link to his blog which documented the project:

    maybe you’ve already heard of it though…

  5. Andra says:

    Well, I don’t want to see anything else of this man’s photography, but I have been looking at this photo of the two little girls from time to time all day and I really like it.
    They are very, very cute but terrified. They have no idea who this strange person is and they absolutely hate all the fuss. They just want to go home and get those stupid hats off their heads and play with their dolls. They are definitely doll players.
    Wouldn’t it be great to see a photo of them today?

  6. patni says:

    I love this picture. Those little girls maybe scared or disapproving, but I feel I know they are going to talk about it together for a long while after.

    I love his other photos. As you say SW there is a marvelous sense of intimacy. I get very very bored with pretty, but find a lot of ‘grotesques” mean or childish. these pictures to me are wonderful portraits of real people that tell stories.
    I don’t think they looked hard or hateful really though.
    I have never heard of him before so thanks sister wolf..

  7. Andra says:

    You got it just right. I don’t want to see any more of his photos but I do like this one. I don’t care for the pretty or the grotesques either….for me the little girls is about perfect.
    It doesn’t disturb me but makes me think a little bit. Kind thoughts.

  8. Cricket9 says:

    Ali, thank you for the link to Matt Kish – love his art, great discovery!

  9. Debbie says:

    Dayum, those are the creepiest little kids I’ve ever seen. Jeez.

  10. dexter vandango says:

    Here’s a musical montage of his photos I put together a few years ago. The music is from Country Joe & the Fish… appropriately strange?

  11. Jeff Thomas says:

    There was a book published in 1976 called the Heber Springs Portraits. The commentary gives a lot of insight into the photographer, the portraits and the subjects. According to my mother the studio was scary and dark and Mr Disfarmer smelled.

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