A portrait photographer who operated a photo studio in Heber Springs, Arkansas during the great depression era. Subjects in his works are normally shown against a black backdrop and rarely pose in any special way and often-times don't even smile. His photographs offer a realistic look at the people of his community through hard times.
Born Mike Meyer in 1884, his family actually originated from Indiana, moving to Stuttgart, Arkansas sometime in the late 1800s. After the death of his father in 1914, his mother moved the family to Heber Springs. He eventually moved on to own a photo studio, the Meyer Studio, named for himself.
Sometime in mid-life, he decided that his family was not his own. Rather, he believed, he had been swept away from his birth family by a tornado and transported to his current one. He would go so far as to legally change his surname to Disfarmer. His choice in that name is likely highly symbolic. Withdrawing from his family and entering a solitary life, he had few contacts aside from his customer. His photographs began to have less and less flair and arrangement, resulting in stark, black on white works. Mike Disfarmer died in 1959, having achieved no fame or notice in his lifetime.
What is interesting to note is that Disfarmer kept the negatives of nearly every photograph that he took. Most that survive and are shown publicly today are from the WWII era. When his original negatives and plates were found in the 1970's, they gained noteriety and today his works can be found in collections including New York's Museum of Modern Art and The International Center of Photography.
The town of Heber Springs is still a close-knit community, so much so, that the local historical society has managed to put a name to the unnamed faces in the book "Disfarmer: 1939-1946 Heber Springs Portraits." If you're interested, there are also two other bound collections of his work as well as some examples printed online.
More information will be provided as it becomes available.
The Cleburne County Historical Society Museum, Heber Springs, AR.