The Disfarmer Story
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.
The eccentric photographer known as Disfarmer (1884-1959) seemed to be a man determined to shroud himself in mystery.
Born Mike Meyers, the sixth of seven children in a German immigrant family, Disfarmer rejected the Arkansas farming world and the family in which he was raised.
Not a "Farmer"
In time Mike expressed his discontent with his family and farming by changing his name to Disfarmer. In modern German "meier" means dairy farmer, and since he thought of himself as neither a "Meyer" nor a "farmer," Mike Meyer became "dis"- farmer.
Perhaps, it was his desire to break free of his Arkansas roots that led him to photography. He taught himself how to shoot and develop photographs, and he soon set up a studio on the back porch of his mother's house in Heber Springs, Arkansas.
After the Storm
In the 1930s a tornado swept through the Heber Springs valley destroying the Meyer home and forcing his mother to move in with a relative. Shortly thereafter, Disfarmer built a studio on Main Street and became a full-time photographer.
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.
Disfarmer's reclusive personality and his belief 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.