Sunday, September 22, 2013

These men are not gay | This is not a farmer | Disfarmer

Perhaps an example of the original hipsters? I almost queued this up on Tumblr with a witty descriptor without a second thought. I probed a little deeper into the history of this image and am glad I did. It turns out to be a jewel of a photo that takes us on an exploration of the deep south.

The sixth of seven children born to a large German immigrant family in rural Arkansas, Mike Meyers (1884-1959) separated from his background and renamed himself Disfarmer. It is said that "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."

I may consider changing my name to Dispsychologist. If I do Maggie will be known as Disdog. This however is a topic for another dispost.

A self taught photographer, Disfarmer set up shop on the back porch of his house in Heber Springs Arkansas. Several years later the house was destroyed in a storm and Disfarmer set up shop in downtown Heber Springs where he worked for the rest of his life.

An opera was written about an imagined vignette of Disfarmer's life.

"Disfarmer's reclusive personality and his believe in his own unique superiority as a photographer and as a human being made him somewhat of an oddity to others. Having your picture taken at Disfarmer's studio became one of the main attractions of a trip into town." (read more here)

In an interview on NPR, musician Bill Frisell talked about the music he wrote inspired by the work of Disfarmer. He said that while many describe Disfarmer as being rude to the people he photographed or otherwise made them feel uncomfortable, that wasn't his intention. "People weren't really posing. They never really knew when the photo was going to be taken. In that way you get this really honest picture of those folks."

He was certainly eccentric. Frisell described that Disfarmer would stalk around late and night in the dark jumping out at people scaring them.

The Disfarmer Project is dedicated reclaiming, restoring, & documenting the legacy of the photographer

His work and identity was almost lost. After Disfarmer's death in 1959 his house and all the contents were bought by an individual. More than 3,000 glass plate negatives were tucked away in the basement. It wasn't until 1974 when Peter Miller moved to Heber Springs to publish a newspaper were the photos discovered. Miller published a feature article called "Some Day My Prints Will Come." Families in Heber Springs submitted old photographs for publication. Miller recognized the uniqueness of some of the old prints that were submitted from the collection found in the house, researched them, and ended up buying the entire collection.

Disfarmer is on Facebook

Disfarmer's work is now held in collections of the New York Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Arkansas Arts Center Museum, and the International Center of Photography in New York City.

Disfarmer, the Heber Springs Portraits 1939-1946

It is said that "nothing speaks more eloquently about Disfarmer's artistry than the photographs themselves. His genius was the ability to capture without judgment, the essence of a people and a time." Here is a trailer that I found of a documentary about the man and his work:

...and an except from a puppet show about Disfarmer.

Want to know even more about this Disfarmer? Click here or here for some deep research.

Disfarmer turned his camera on many different subjects. Many friends came to his studio, for a variety of reasons, having their relationship documented. In my ongoing documentation of vintage male friendships I've collected the images I could find that Disfarmer took depicting vintage male friendships and strung them together into a video clip.

Enjoy the trip back in time to a place where men were just a little bit more free.

For more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Vintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William GedneyIt's Only a Paper Moon;Vintage Gay America: Crawford BartonThese Men Are Not Gay | This Is Not A Farmer | DisfarmerDesire and Difference: Hidden in Plain SightCome Make Eyes With Me Under the Anheuser BushHugh Mangum: Itinerant PhotographerTwo men, Two PosesPhotos are Not Always What They SeemVintage Sailors: An Awkward RealizationThree Men on a HorseWelkom Bar: Vintage Same Sex MarriagePretty in Pink: Two Vintage Chinese MenMemorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor LoveMemorial Day: Vintage Dancing SailorsThe Curious Case of Two Men EmbracingThey'll Never Know How Close We WereVintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram,Manly Affections: Robert GantHomo Bride and Groom Restored to DignityThe Men in the TreesThe Girl in the OuthouseTommy and Buzz: All My Love,Men in Photo Booths, and Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957. You can also follow me on Tumblr.


  1. LOVED this film, Jason! Loved the music too! What a great little film maker in your future resume?! What a great find Disfarmer is...a fascinating, off beat & thought provoking character!
    This is Not...your mother

    1. Thanks, Dismother!

      I wanted to try my hand and putting the images together as a film. There so many it seemed like this might be a better way to present them. I'm glad you thought it worked well.

      It makes me wonder what other gems might be hiding in people's basements.