Though The Observer can’t take a photo without somehow getting our thumb, the camera strap, or the backside of the lens cap in it, we’re a big fan of capitol-A, capital-P Art Photography.
What some folks don’t know is that Arkansas was once home to its own great light of the photography world: Heber Springs’ Mike Disfarmer. Something of an eccentric — he was born Mike Meyer, but later changed his name to Disfarmer to divorce himself from his agrarian roots, and he liked to tell people he was carried to town on a tornado — Disfarmer worked as a “penny portrait” photographer in Heber from the 1920s to the 1950s, taking extraordinary photos of plain, local people. Though he died pretty much forgotten in 1959, Disfarmer’s work has come to be highly appreciated in the last few decades, with some calling him one of the best portrait photographers that ever lived. Two gallery shows in New York City last year brought prices as high as $30,000 for some of his vintage, postcard-sized prints.
Disfarmer came to mind over the weekend, as we were visiting our dear old Granny in Quitman. Her people — my people, on my mother’s side — have lived in the area for generations, just a few miles over hill and dale from Heber Springs.
As often happens, Granny brought out her photo albums, never missing a chance to reminisce. A couple pages in, we spotted it: a three-and-a-half-by-five photo of four girls in white dresses, lined up against a somber black backdrop on a bare gray floor. The photo’s similarity to some vintage Disfarmer prints online got us excited, and — after looking at the construction on the backdrop, lines on the floor, and the composition — the Arkansas Times’ resident art critic concurred: It’s the genuine article. Either it was made by Disfarmer or someone stole into his studio in the dead of night with four little girls with bows in their hair and took the picture.
Never one to count chicks in the shell, however, you can call The Observer 99 percent sure.
As if we didn’t know it already, Arkansas proves to us once again that she still has her hidden treasures.
The Observer was complaining to a friend that the new cat was climbing the Christmas tree, that we could see its yellow tail swishing from the spot where the angel should go, hoping the fishing line tying the trunk to the wall would hold. There’s nothing new under the sun to write about cats and Christmas trees, so we won’t go on.
The point is, our friend told us about her dog that enjoyed getting under the tree and chewing. One morning before Christmas, the dog bounced upon the friend’s bed, as was its wont, and hanging from one ear was an ornament. Flapping her ears, the look in her eye said, “So what if there’s an ornament hanging from my ear?”
Better earrings than dinner. Do not, under any circumstances, ever decorate your Christmas tree in all wooden ornaments and then leave an Airedale unattended in the room.
In fact, never leave an Airedale unattended.
Winter is the least necessary of seasons, says The Observer. Others around us complained during last week’s lovely balmy stretch that it just doesn’t feel like Christmas unless it’s cold enough outside to kill them if they fell asleep on a park bench. OK, we suppose we wouldn’t really mind if winter blew in Dec. 24 and out again Jan. 1. Otherwise no one would have ever written “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” and that would just be sad.
And that gets us wondering: What kind of Christmas songs do folks in the Southern hemisphere sing? “Baby It’s Hot Outside”? “Chestnuts Roasting on the Barbecue”? “In the Bleak Midsummer”? Perhaps they go dashing through the sand in their one-horse open dune-buggies.