Works of Legendary Arkansas Photographer on Display

One of the most renowned portrait photographers that ever clicked a camera is Mike Disfarmer, an Arkansas native. His stark black-and-white “penny portraits,” as they were called when taken between 1939 and 1945, are a catalog of life in rural Arkansas during that time frame. According to the official Disfarmer website, “Using commercially available glass plates, Disfarmer photographed his subjects in direct north light creating a unique and compelling intimacy. He was so obsessed with obtaining the correct lighting that his lighting adjustments for a sitting were said to take sometimes more than an hour.”
His work wasn’t well-known until a cache of his negatives were found in his hometown of Heber Springs in the 1970s. Two subsequent exhibitions thrust his photographs into the limelight.  A New York Times article by Philip Gefter accurately described Disfarmer’s photographs as “American Gothic, disenchanted and real, portraying a slice of American life in the 1920s through the 1950s with unfailing realism.”

You have a wonderful opportunity to see some of Disfarmer’s best during an exhibition at the Greg Thompson Gallery in downtown North Little Rock. The show, entitled , Disfarmer: Portraits from a Lifetime, features 40 vintage prints curated by Jennifer Carman, whose firm J. Carman Inc. Fine Art is sponsoring the exhibit. Disfarmer’s subjects are so incredibly descriptive of Arkansans in the 30s and 40s. No words are needed, in my opinion, as they tell the story on their own, without any text. 

The exhibit runs through May 12 so time to see these Arkansas gems is limited. The gallery is located at 429 Main Street, 2nd Floor in the Argenta Downtown Historic District. Hours areTuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and by appointment.


Photos copyright J.Carman, Inc.
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