Wendell Berry on the Photography of Ralph Eugene Meatyard
11 February 2015
This is the “Note” by Wendell Berry found in Ralph Eugene Meatyard (1970):
Association for several years with the work of Gene Meatyard has become one of my crucial experiences. It has kept me involved — and willing to be involved — in a sort of fundamental disturbance like an earthquake, unsettling, for sure, but at the same time giving evidence that something lively is going on in the world. Looking at his pictures, I am aware that my basic assumptions about reality are being tampered with. I am being nudged, forcibly and a bit gleefully, by the possibility that what we have taken to be reality is a mere social convention, going out of date. I turn from the photographs to my surroundings, feeling that what I see is not all that is there.
More than that of any other artist I know, this work alerts me to the fact that we have arrived here at this moment by ways that are mostly unknown to us. The configuration of the images in many of these pictures has clearly been produced by a plot as elaborate as that of any novel, but the plot is not in evidence. It is not withheld deliberately; we are not dealing with a trick of “suspense,” but with real mystery. The plot is not given because the photographer does not know what it is any more than we do. I think that he is able to produce such vivid images of how our experience is because he accedes so absolutely to the mystery of why.
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