Tuesday, February 17, 2015


 Mike Meyers "Disfarmer" (1884-1959) was an eccentric photographer from Heber Springs, Arkansas who during the depression era needed a way to make money. The average cotton farmer made about $.75 a day for ten hours of work, yet on a Saturday they would come in to town & plunk down $.25 cents for a portrait with family, friends or even a glamour shot to send off to a boyfriend in the war. Children were terrified of him & the look of surprise on most of their faces was a reaction to Disfarmer who during the lengthy sitting period would suddenly ring a bell. They may have become alert during the lengthy sitting process, but also reacted with shock. Folks kept coming however to mark an occasion & he would make more in one day then they could hope to make in a few weeks or even months.

'Disfarmer's died in 1959 & a local named Joe Albright bought the Disfarmer studio from estate executors. As he & his sons picked through the abandoned studio, they found thousands of dollars hidden away in film plate boxes. The true bonanza was the discovery of more than 3,000 glass plate negatives. In 1974, professional photographer Peter Miller & his wife moved to Heber Springs to publish a weekly newspaper, The Arkansas Sun. When The Sun ran a main page feature called, "Some Day My Prints Will Come," featuring old family photographs submitted by readers, Albright submitted some of Disfarmer's work. Miller purchased the collection of negatives from Albright & forwarded copies to Julia Scully, editor of 'Modern Photography' magazine. Scully recognized the unique qualities of the photographs & since then has worked to bring Disfarmer's portraits into public view.'

The rising value of the prints caused profound changes to the Heber Springs Community when a 'scavenger hunt' ensued. Everyone began digging through old family photos trying to find a 'Disfarmer', & when they did, a print was made & the original handed back with $500, $1000, or more for each print! Of course some wouldn't part with them, but the rest started to have some extra money for business & pleasure. A recent Documentary named Disfarmer, tells the story of the man, the town & how lives changed. Fascinating.  http://www.disfarmer.com/

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