Watching: “Disfarmer” (2010)

I don’t always love Amazon Prime’s suggestions for what I should watch next, but this documentary appeared inauspiciously in the list andcaught my attention when I saw the title, Disfarmer. I squinted and looked closer to be sure I was reading it right: Disfarmer, what does that mean? 

Mike Meyers Disfarmer was a portrait photographer in Heber Springs, Arkansas, which is in Cleburne County, about seventy miles north of Little Rock. Born Mike Meyers, he was an odd and even frightening man, who created a personal mythology about a tornado taking him from his real family and dropped him with the Meyerses. Meyers dubbed himself Disfarmer in an effort to disavow his family’s farming roots, and even went so far as to change his name legally.

As you can see in the trailer, Disfarmer had a signature style, which was discovered happenstance after his death in 1959, then later appreciated and collected. During his life, the photographer was known only locally, mostly for his quirky and often difficult ways, though it seems that most people in the area frequently used his services despite that. Though locals didn’t think of his work as art, most did come around when the money to buy their photographs started flowing. Today, his work in documentary photography is being celebrated in The Disfarmer Project.

I’ve become skeptical of documentaries on streaming services, because so many that I’ve watched have been dull beyond description or because the filmmakers attempted to build a story on people with only loose connections to the subject. But Disfarmer was a good one and included closely connected locals. At only 52 minutes runtime, it’s well worth a watch.


 

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