Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Untitled, ca. 1954, black-and-white photograph, 8 x 13 1/2”.

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

International Center of Photography Museum (ICP)

The most significant force in photography during the past forty years has been the development of practices that accommodate subjectivity and interiority, recognizing that which is felt by the photographer as opposed to making any statement of fact. Although this approach now dominates contemporary photographic discourse, it has not always been so. In fact, the fundamental lexicon of the photographic subjective, not to mention the development of photographic narrative and the constructed image, emerged in the late ’50s and early ’60s from the unlikely precincts of Lexington, Kentucky, the handiwork of a professional optometrist with the provocative name of Ralph Eugene Meatyard (1925–72).

While this photographer’s perpetual outsider status has contributed to the lingering critical perception of his work’s “authenticity”—he made his prints only once a year, during two-week vacations from

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