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Purchase College Presenting Vintage Photographs By Mike Disfarmer

Mike Disfarmer, " J.C. and Irma Dean Verser " ca. 1939-46 (printed 1976) Gelatin silver print, 11 7/8 x 7 3/8 inches Photo Credit: Courtesy International Center of Photography, Gift of Julia
Stamp: “The Meyer Studio, Heber Springs, Ark., 083545” ca. 1935 Gelatin silver print, 3 3/4 x 2 3/4 inches Collection Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York Anonymous Gift Photo Credit: Contributed

PURCHASE, N.Y. – Vintage photographs by Mike Disfarmer will be on display at the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College SUNY through March 22.

“Becoming Disfarmer” is the first exhibit in the New York metropolitan region to include Disfarmer’s vintage prints made during the Great Depression and World War II years as well as enlargements made from his negatives after 1976.

Between 1915 and 1959, Disfarmer was a commercial photographer capturing every day life in Herber Springs, Ark. His post-card sized portraits feature such figures as farmers in overalls, adolescents in prom attire, and housewives in flowered dresses -- the kind of photos that often end up in family albums.

The exhibit also features enlargements made posthumously from 1976-2005 from his glass plate negatives dated 1939-46; as well as audio clips, historical journals, newspapers, and other ephemera.

An illustrated catalog accompanies the exhibition with essays by the curator and writers Gil Blank and Tanya Sheehan.

Disfarmer was largely unknown until the 1970s, when an editor at the Arkansas Sun, who had obtained some of Disfarmer’s glass negatives, wrote a weekly column titled “Someday My Prints Will Come,” asking readers if they could identify the subjects.

In 1977, expert black-and-white photography printers were commissioned to translate Disfarmer’s imagery into seductive oversized photographs for an exhibition.

The exhibition, curated by Chelsea Spengemann, an independent scholar, is a critical examination of Disfarmer’s work as well as the first museum survey to consider the ways in which Disfarmer’s vernacular photographs have been revalued and recast.

Disfarmer was born in 1884 as Mike Meyer, a grandson of German immigrants. He changed his name in 1939 to disassociate himself with his family and upbringing. The name “Meier” in German once translated to “dairy farmer.” So, he took the name Disfarmer -- alluding to "not a farmer."

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