NATHALIE ANDREWS: Well, I guess first we'd be interested in maybe how youhappened to come to Kentucky, because you're not originally from Kentucky. Why don't you tell us some of the facts? I know you were born in Normal, Illinois.
RALPH MEATYARD: Yes, right. In 1925, on May 15. Well, back a ways-- a littleprehistory, in that my great-grandfather was an inventor. The name Meatyard is 1:00English and he came to the United States directly from England, and at one time owned all the land and maybe the lake, too, of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin which is a high-falutin' and high priced resort now. If he owned that still today, he'd be a multi-multi-millionaire. But in amongst those things he--some lawyers took that away from him...to where he was not--none of his money or anything got away 2:00from him. I had-- back at the start of photography, one of the people interested in the workings of it was Thomas Wedgwood of the Wedgwood China people. And there was an Eliza Meatyard who was a friend of theirs and who was a photographer and made some photographs with the Wedgwood process additions, in the early parts of photography.
Andrews: This was in England?
MEATYARD: Yes, this was in the 1820s or earlier.
Andrews: You traced this back to a relative of yours?MEATYARD: Yes, I've seen--anyhow, there was one book that I've seen listed in England where she made some pictures of Wedgwood and their friends. I didn't know this until just recently, 3:00but what I'm kind of getting at along the way my grandfather Meatyard was a railroad engineer and he-- oh, he kind of liked finer things. His wife was a better than amateur painter and did a lot of things around their house. I have two or three of her paintings. They're really kind of nice things. So there is a history along the line. I have a younger brother that is an artist, a sculptor, a painter, teaches arts in Florida at the present time, so somewhere along the line there's some--
Andrews: --creative activity?
MEATYARD: --things going on that way. My mother has a fine artistic sense4:00although my father didn't have much, when he was alive. Like, it skips generations or something, which I read someplace it's supposed to do. Anyway, I went to university schools which are the schools run by the university connected with the university, with university teachers and student teachers and so forth--training schools for the university, well all the way through high school.
Andrews: Was your father connected with the university?
MEATYARD: No, but there you didn't have to--well, the way it used to be here,you had to be on the staff or faculty to go to the school, but there anybody could go to it who wanted to pay the tuition. So it was rather than a public school, a tuition kind of thing. Not that there's anything to a whole of class 5:00this, or that, or the other, but you--somehow, I think, scholarship doesn't hurt a thing and the learning was scholarly things. And being more advantaged than less advantaged is a certain amount of advantage and I guess this is the main sort of point that I've been trying to make through here, that I think I had more things than a lot of kids would have had at that time. In World War II, I was in the Navy and went to Williams College in Massachusetts in a pre-dentistry course which was in the V-12 program. A lot of these people didn't even wind up 6:00getting out of school. They spent all of their time in school. It was going to be a long war and they were building officers and doctors and this, that, and the other thing for their purposes. So Williams is one of the fine schools in the country, one of the places the presidents and statesmen and so forth come from. And that was an advantage. After I'd been there for some time--took off, of course, two years under this program, and after I'd been there for some time-- well, all the time I'd been there, I got too many outside interests interfering with my education, with my grades, and I got to acting, doing this and that and running this paper and that thing and so on and so forth to the point where I wasn't able to keep up and, in fact, in some courses I was griping 7:00at what the kids are griping at today; the stuffy way that some of the things are taught, the old hat ways. Although they had some very modern ways, they had some very old hat ways of teaching and, strangely enough, the ones that were teaching old fashioned ways were usually the younger people and the old people were teaching the modern ways. A German professor that I had, an old, old man from Germany, a very brilliant man, he was probably the best teacher in the whole place that I encountered. Young mathematics professors that thought they knew everything in the world and I got into a number of arguments. He said the thing was supposed to be done this way and that way and the answer was thus and so and I said well, it might have been, but I have the same answer and I came to it a different series of ways and proved it to him, and flunked the course. This 8:00is the kind of junk that you can get in a-- especially in a very stuffy school and then a lot of them that aren't too stuffy. So even back through--skipping a lot of the high school and so forth--those are them, I think--My friends and I were of the trend-setting bunch that were--oh, we had a high school fraternity and we had, that we started ourselves, and we had a-- at that time, trying to set a new clothing trend in town, we discovered a couple of places that had some 9:00old shirts that you had to button on the collars and the cuffs. They were celluloid and we found a couple that still had some for sale and we started souring the central Illinois area for collarless and cuffless shirts from people's old stock and then the collars that you could buy and you wore them on--they were of a heavy, nice, some of them kind of a silky texture even. And wear a collar for two or three days till it got dirty and then throw it away. Then you shirt went on-- never had to wash your shirt, theoretically or something, put on a new collar and cuffs.
Andrews: I've seen pictures of some of those in some of the collection.
MEATYARD: They were fantastic, but we'd wear those and we'd wear suspenders forthe first time in years, wild suspenders, and so always somewhat of this rebel kind of trend.
After I got commandeered out of the V-12 I was in the hospital corps, still inthe Navy, but I was selected to be a hospital corpsman and instead of just 10:00sitting on my tail--well, I fortunately got out of being a bedpan carrier and so forth and so on, early, and was in the supply end of it. We lived with about six other guys in our own separate building... did our own thing, did our own cooking, did our own everything. We could do whatever we wanted to do-- still in the States. The area that I was in a Camp Perry, Virginia, was training Negro soldiers-- Negro sailors for the first time that they'd ever had bodies of Negroes as a part of the Army or Navy, well of the Navy. They'd had them for practically the start of the war in the Army a few places, but they hadn't had any in the Navy. We were training Negroes and then after, we were training 11:00Seabees in the Navy procedure for a while, and then after we got enough Seabees to stock the Pacific, we were guarding German prisoners for a while.
Well, I just stayed on the one base, and kept trying to volunteer to get intothe fleet Marines which is a place where there is about ninety percent mortality. People with the fleet Marines, corpsmen who were with the Marines landing on their forays got no protection at all and had no way to protect. They were out in the open all the time, and as I say very few of them ever came back. I kept volunteering for this duty all the time, fortunately never was chosen or selected because I was too valuable as a-- hauling medical supplies around Virginia. This is all to my advantage. 12:00
Andrews: So you never actually left the United States.
MEATYARD: No. I didn't care of the people that were keeping me there at thetime, but then after I got out I realized that it was all for the best-- it could be too expensive to be a hero sometimes.
And after I got out, I went to Illinois Wesleyan which is in Bloomington,Illinois. It was like all the Wesleyans, vaguely connected with the church, the Methodist Church and the liberal arts-- mostly a music school, although I was taking a number of philosophy courses. And maybe there got me interested in maybe some of the Ideas that led into more photography. And interested in 13:00several religions, but never a churchgoer at all. Well, I always fought that route all the way. It was a quack sort of business; never cared for it, for churches, or the way they were run, or anything else. It's religious without going to church. But I began to be religious-- interested more in the various religions, especially some of the more practical ones like the Latter Day ones of Wittgenstein and the people of his persuasions, and then the Zen religions and this that, and the other. 14:00
Decided also that we needed to eat and quit school before I graduated and gotinto the eyeglass business through friends-- right good job, should have been, and--
Andrews: You were still living with your family at this time?
MEATYARD: Yes. I was, well, at that time. I was married-- and am still married--have never been unmarried-- but-- or was it still in Illinois? This-- oh, after sufficient schooling along this line which is more practical than anything else, although there was a number of bookish kind of courses and things, I got the 15:00urge to travel from there a bit and heard of an opening here in Kentucky and came down here. Where I worked, there in the back end of it was-- they had a photo store. You walked through the front was an eyeglass business and back in the back was a photo store. They had all sorts of things and I was exposed a great deal to cameras and such and I bought a camera real cheap and made some pictures of family and friends, and, on vacation would make some that were a little stranger maybe than the ordinary. And when I heard of the Lexington Camera Club in 1950-- yes, in 1950-- 16:00
Andrews: This camera store was in Lexington?
MEATYARD: I came here in '45 -- I came here in 4'7. Yes, the camera store--
Andrews: And before that you hadn't actually been involved in photography?
Andrews: Do you remember what kind of camera it was?
MEATYARD: Yes, I bought a Bolsey which is a 35 mm reflex. It was a little 35 mmthat you looked down-- reflexed down through and up, the first one like that, and it was a real nice little camera. The photo finisher that they had was a friend of mine, Bill Gaines was his name, and he taught me a lot about finishing and I made many, many-- well, before I got on to-- now let's see-- now, I joined the camera club before that-- met Van Deren Coke-- he was a member of the camera 17:00club. Well, the first time I was there, the pictures I brought he found kind of unusual and started patting me on the back occasionally, giving me some pointers. But I joined the PSA which is-- I don't know if you know anything about Photographic Society of America, or the old hat folks. Just the scene is what they're after. They're gimmickers and like to have stars back of their names and initials back of their name for this photographic achievement and that, and so on and so forth. And I made some nice, big 16 x 20's out of my 35 and won a number of awards all over the world in shows and thus and so. I showed in state fairs and all kinds of wild places like that.
And then I began to get more disillusioned with the PSA as I guess my pictures18:00got better through the auspices and help of Van and we'd go out photographing together and interchange ideas and so forth. He was still not for the PSA but he was entirely helpful. He didn't say I shouldn't belong to that or should do anything along that line. Any exposure was all right, but you know, we helped each other. We'd go photographing and I'd tell him and thus and so. We had an interchange of ideas then I'd get into a few fights with PSA people. They'd send around portfolios of "how-to-do-its" and everybody would express their opinions 19:00about the pictures and everything-- about the negatives they'd printed, prints they'd printed off one negative and thus and so and I was always in the minority in this group of people, so I just more or less told them to go to hell and began to show a few more places that Coke wanted me to show.
And the first one of these was-- he put on here at the University of Kentucky--was Creative Photography 1955, it was called. And he had a number, oh he had studied with Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, the whole route of-- but he was a 20:00businessman, president of a wholesale hardware company as I was an optician, but his interests were a great deal in photography. He was wealthy enough to go around and take courses from all the people, but he had a number of prints that he owned by Edward Weston and by Adams, by this person and that person. Then, having those and having been where he had, he knew some other people and he gathered a show of, oh let's see about seventeen or eighteen people, I think-- no, fifteen people, ten pictures apiece, and he and I were in it. He had me 21:00showing with this group, and that's a right fancy group. Aaron Siskind was in it and Minor White was in it and Charles Scheeler, the painter and anyway, it was a right classy company I was travelling in at this show, and it traveled around the United States for some time.
Andrews: This is a show that he organized?MEATYARD: Yes.
Andrews: Here in Lexington?
MEATYARD: Right, and he--
Andrews: So you actually had personal contacts through most of those.
MEATYARD: Right, and it was very interesting-- seeing the show, putting it up,helping work with it; and his intentions were to travel it after that for years and years and each year put on another show and this-- the next year for some reason, couldn't get the gallery or something; anyway, that died aborning, so 22:00that ended that sort of thing.
And the next sort of show that I came to was in '58. He and I had-- well, theywere all local camera club shows and so forth. But he and I had a two man show in the DeCarava Gallery in New York. This was run by Ann DeCarava, who was the white wife of Roy DeCarava, the famous Negro photographer-- one of the early heroes of the black people. And he did-- have you read Sweet Flypaper of Life? It's a little picture book; it's one of his most famous, a real nice thing. 23:00Anyway, we had a two man show there and we went up for it and met a lot of nice, interesting people up there. Show hung for about a month, got some good publicity, got a big write up in the New York Times. Well, U.S. Camera did a run on the creative show there, also, which was-- U.S. Camera did a section on this show there. Took some of the pictures to show and Ann wanted to keep these pictures of Van's and mine. Van said no, he'd take his home and send her some 24:00others and she might as well keep those and if she could sell them, all right. And she kept them and kept them and kept them and kept them and still has them. I haven't ever gotten them back or been able to catch up with her or anything else. So there's fifty photographs that have gone astray.
Andrews: You never saw them again?
MEATYARD: No. The only reason I mentioned that is because that's not the onlytime such a thing has happened.
That was in 1958. In '59 I had a one man show at Tulane University. How did Iever get a show there was through--well about that time, Van had given up the hardware business and was going to school, getting his master and doctor's degree in photography, in art history, rather , and secondarily in photography. 25:00His brother-in-law was at Tulane University and he invited us to have a show of photographs down there. And in '59 also, I had six pictures in the new Museum of Modern Art show-- "The Sense of Abstraction," which was one of the biggest shows I guess I've ever been in. Also through there I got some good publicity and some good reproductions. Also I was in the photography at Mid-Century at the Eastman House which was a photographers from 1900 to 1950 -- and so that was a big show. 26:00
In '61 I was in a show at the University of Illinois. They picked-- they starteda series of photographic shows-- every other year, they have a biennial of the arts or some such thing as that. Well, and for the first time, this time, they picked photographers born in Illinois-- and it's been a little while. There were six of us. I hadn't known that any of us necessarily were from Illinois, except I think only one of them was still in Illinois. But Siskind was in that and 27:00Henry Holmes Smith and myself, and Garrett, the airplane photographer. Plain landscape pictures, I think that's all he does-- Garrett? Garrard? Whatever his name is, got a reputation along that line.
In '58 going back a little bit, I was in a show in Indiana-- I think it was'58-- I was in a show called Photographer's Choice in Indiana that Henry Smith 28:00put on and did an article on the way I was working, then called "no focus." I don't know if I have any pictures made that way here to show you, but my idea was, and I got on to it a little bit through a painter friend of mine here. Well, the way the thing came about is, I was all concerned with the photographic things that were being done, the fine line and this, that and the other thing, and the properties that all photographs possess. And one day this man, Fred Thurz, a very good painter, who's now head of the art department at Brooklyn University. I saw a couple of pictures-- polymer plastic-- very abstract 29:00pictures, but they had all photographic properties, photographic lines and everything else and tone and had the whole bit that a photograph actually has and they're pure painting. You couldn't say they're not a painting and there's no pretension of being a photograph; you don't say, like "photographic painting," or something like that. He wasn't even aware of this. I saw this in them that they were so close to being a photograph that there must be something the matter with photography and I went-- let me show you some pictures done that 30:00way, and his pictures I have here too. I'll show you what I'm talking about. So if you want to shut that off for a minute.
Now, what you've seen there is-- I would take these things. I'd switched overback through there sometime to a Rolleiflex-- I was using that, not as a gimmick or a-- I use just one camera at a time-- only one until it wears out and then I might change, get something else, but I was using a Rolleiflex and I would throw the picture completely out of focus. I'd look through the ground glass or wherever I was-- oh, I might be out in the woods, say, or here over in the city street or whatever, but I'd look through here and it'd be completely out of focus and, there'd be a difference if it was, you know, put the roll away. I'd 31:00shoot the whole thing that way, the whole bunch of them that way, I'd put it away and I wouldn't do anything more with it for a year and-- oh, if I took one in November, I'd do it in January. But for the most part I wouldn't see the thing again for a year and so I got onto another thing which I did a whole lot of for a long time, and that was to not see my pictures, negatives for a long time so I wouldn't be as biased toward them. Usually with anything that you create you'll make a thing and the last one you did is the best one you ever did-- something along that line, and after a little while you're cool towards 32:00it. But on a practical scale, you waste a lot of paper and mounts and so forth doing all these things you think are so great that wind up not being worth very much after a while. So, but I would put these away and forget what they were mainly to completely forget what was there.
Andrews: You wouldn't process the film at all?
MEATYARD: I'd have no idea of what I had taken a picture of, so I had noprejudices toward it. I didn't know whether it was up, down, right side up, or what it was of, or anything else, and then with the other idea of having the things instead of having line, doing away with some of the photographic properties, eliminating some of the things that make a good photograph a photograph. Winding up, it was a complete photograph, completely done photographically and still made up of edges coming together instead of a hard 33:00line coming together. And this I achieved and have written about in some length on this thing. In fact, I think maybe I gave-- I didn't have but one or two copies of that-- I don't know whether I included that in that stuff I gave you all or not.
Andrews: I can show you just about everything we've got.
MEATYARD: Anyway there's this essay. If you haven't access to them you might beable to go to Indiana and get a copy of that brochure that he put out at that time and make a copy of the thing. I'm not sure that I have a copy of what it was.
Andrews: Charlie compiled a bibliography.
MEATYARD: It was--the show was called "Photographer's Choice" and it was in '58and it was in there-- sort of a catalog, newspaper he put out at that time. Along-- Oh, I've always been an advocate of the straight photographs through the 34:00lines. I hate darkroom art, so I'm not going to waste my time, a lot of time in the darkroom. I spend as little time in there as I possibly can in any fashion-- not because of this, but because I believe that photography should be made with a camera through the lens. I don't care what you do to get it there. Oh, I think Weegee and some of his prisms and mirrors and this, that and the other are overly gimmicky, but by that I mean I don't care how many times you multiply 35:00expose it on one negative and so on and so forth, but as long as you have a negative that you go in and then print one from in the shortest possible time and that's it. I print the full negative, always have, or most always have. Five percent of the time, I play around with long, tall ones or short, fat ones or something. But I make the full negative and try to put everything on there that I wanted there in the first place, again, to spend as little time in the darkroom as I can. I go and make a very straight print; no dodging, no nothing--print it out. So this is-- that sort of thing influenced a whole lot of the way that I do things along with photography; this first sort of idea that I got onto in that kind of a system--
Andrews: I was interested in that painting you showed me and the photographs and36:00you mentioned that the photographs were doing something like a painting, but what was it you considered that was photographic about them; that they could do uniquely, that the painting couldn't do? Or why didn't you just paint the painting that way? You saw this as a new direction for photography or just as something you just wanted to explore?
MEATYARD: Well, I wanted to-- when I saw his painting the thought just came tome that it would be soon that an adept painter could paint anything that a photographer could. If he could get this close to photography with polymer paints and his ability, then I had to get further away from the things that were photographic properties and go more and more to a thing still through the lens 37:00that were painterly property. This is why I mentioned the edges coming together, rather than having an edge. You have to planes just meeting, is a painting method, and there are overlays and so forth.
Andrews: it also came to shorten the depth of a picture in a way; I mean, tocause these tensions of these overlapping planes of tonality rather than--
MEATYARD: You can both shorten and lengthen them; you can make them look someother ways, but these have an extreme depth that is nowhere apparent in the thing and this is a painterly property in their use of colors to make things seem closer or farther and so forth. And to use photographic properties this way is kind of a breakthrough. I don't think it's ever been really forced. I haven't 38:00done much with it, other than just kind of using it generally-- been aware of it and maybe subliminally using it in some things. I might be using it in some things right now, but I'm not making any pictures in that particular way, making them with the camera out of focus. I'm doing-- the idea just came to me that this, from a thing you said, might be good to explore. I think I will. That is, I had them coming together but I didn't have them overlapping as you would a transparent paint, one on top of another, giving a third property this way so I think maybe I shall start exploring the use of multiple exposing, no focus pictures, which would then come out that way.
Andrews: I guess overlapping came to my mind because of the application of paint.39:00
MEATYARD: So now we'll see something that may be different.
Andrews: Do you think those explorations were useful maybe just to break thehabit of sharp focus or maybe in a greater--
MEATYARD: Yes, the whole thing. At one time in my life in my early photography Icouldn't shoot a picture in the sunshine to save my soul. It had to be an overcast day, a day with no shadows in it. I had no, absolutely, oh-- I made any kind of picture; amateur, very amateurish, better than amateur sort of pictures, 40:00but after shooting for a long time of pictures made in what's called revealing light without shadows, the sun came out one day when I was out shooting and I had the doggonest time trying to shoot pictures in the sunshine with shadows. I learned all over again, and early being self-conscious of making pictures of people that you don't know and not wanting to intrude on people's privacy and so forth, I had a big thing for a long time about making pictures of people. It took me forever after making pictures of weeds and grass and buildings and this and that to ever put people in pictures. People pictures were hard to come by, and then I started making oodles and oodles of people pictures. After a while, you don't have-- it's not hard to do anything. For years and years you get these prejudices going-- you can't work but one way. 41:00
This is kind of leaving our dating sort of system, but probably it will help togive you more what you want and help to pick up some of the things that I do. I started off one of the main things that I learned from Coke was the use of a background and I've used that ever since, always never without fail. And I don't think he does that. He doesn't follow his own teaching even in that respect, but I first find the background whatever it might be, and then I put what I want to in front of it. This eliminates lots of errors in the first place. It can be a set-up-- well, that's why Adams told Coke that this has been what they say is the most-- what word did they use? ...most erudite son of a bitch that he'd ever 42:00met in his life. For using this set-up of pictures not making an actual scrape out sort of things... just like boom! Shoot the decisive moment where the background doesn't matter, to insist that you can direct the picture. This is what I always do. In fact, one trait that I carry farther than most anybody else in photography is that I direct what's all in the picture. There are none that are not contrived and none that are not set up a hundred percent of the way. I know what's going to happen; make the people move over here, or use a mask or 43:00use a doll, or use this, or that, or the other thing.
Andrews: You're just sort of carrying props around with you?
MEATYARD: Oh, sometimes, but I don't have to have a whole truck to take over; Iusually have something I can use. I've recently-- I still use masks a lot but I've gotten so that I, instead of a mask, just have a little plastic rain hood, a couple of them in the car or in the pocket-- things they give out at filling stations and so forth to put over the person's face which does the same thing as a mask does, makes it look a little weird.
Andrews: Later I, whenever you'd like to, I want to ask you about theiconography, the symbolism of these-- I've noticed-- why the mask, several things that keep recurring. 44:00
MEATYARD: Well, this-- kind of going-- Picking up a thread there of background,howsoever. I've gotten down through the years, into working in several kind of like groups. Like, I have about fourteen more or less set things that I use over and over and over. And we'll use them, in different ways. One might shoot two or three months using pretty much the same sort of things and then switch to something else and then use it another few months and switch back to something else, but each time that I pick up on one that I've done before, use a little bit of this one until another one, they're growing and expanding, getting more 45:00complicated, different, more variety to them so that there's nothing, I feel that's wearing out in shooting-- well, it would be or I wouldn't be doing it, I guess. If I got tired of shooting through the lens of a camera I wouldn't be doing it anymore. I'd be contriving them in the darkroom instead of contriving them in the camera.
Andrews: Do you have a kind of literary, or maybe literal idea for those images,or are they pictorial images? Do you think of them as elements in the picture or do they bring with them a kind of literary--
MEATYARD: Well, the whole thing. Let's see, before I get into that--well, yes,let's go ahead and hop into that with the masks and stuff in the first place. I feel that you cannot bring too much scholarship to a picture and what you bring 46:00to a picture, what knowledge you have, the more knowledge you have to bring to a picture, the more you're going to be able to see in a picture and the more you're going to be able to cope with it. Communication is the be-all, you know, of any media. This joke of saying, "Well, I just made it for myself, nobody else is going to have to like it," is for the birds. You want somebody else to like it and you'd like more than one person and you want many people to like it, if they're smart enough to see it. Then, there's also this big thing of artists having to hide some things in their pictures and I don't think they're at all 47:00times trying to hide them, but-- or make them difficult for people to see-- but there's some feeling there at least that it's not art if it isn't a little deeper than something that the man on the street can see. If it's that simple, it's a billboard and an advertisement-- forget it. In other words, there has to be something-- well, you can make them too obscure, but also they have to be obscure and-- enough to make the other person feel like-- when he works and gets something out of it that he's accomplished something, that it's not the easiest thing in the world to do.
Andrews: When you come back to it you see it in a new light?
MEATYARD: You just have it hanging on your wall for a year or more withoutgetting tired of seeing it everyday and week and this whole bit of getting these 48:00things to work. Now there is, and I've used it in my photography, a series of things that there-- well, it comes down through Ansel Adams and Minor White that there is a public image presented and a personal image and a private image that anybody could see, and you see if you have the knowledge, that you probably won't see and that the photographer won't even know that it's there or the painter or whoever-- the artist doesn't know that it's there. It's just things that he builds in that he is not ever sure is there, but to get back to the scholarship thing, I've seen this too many times with people who do things and not in the field of photography, but in all kinds of fields. One of my good friends is a professor of English at, the university, Guy Davenport, and he is 49:00the foremost scholar I know-- and one of the foremost in the country, I feel. He knows everything about everything as much as anybody else. For knowledge, he's had a lot of schooling, he was an Oxford scholar-- the whole route-- he'd been in school all of his life, but he knows everything about everything. You can't bring up a subject that he doesn't know about. And I bring him a cold photograph that he hasn't seen anything of, and he sees stuff that-- oh, some of it I intend, sure-- and this is the thing that the man on the street is not going to see and an expert photographer is not going to see, but he'll see it and he'll see things that I have no idea of. And this really how wild-- how just purely scholarship can see these things. And they're there and they were intended, probably, to be there. And this is a big help. It is a big help-- I show him 50:00most everything that I've done and he comments one way or another about it and man, can he really see the things that I put. To have a good viewer like that-- we wish everyone was, maybe; hope they all could see more into art. And I have no doubt they could if they had his knowledge; they could see what's in these things. It's a matter of knowing it.
Well, I've used this thing. I've put this to use in believing that people lookat a photograph and because it's a photograph they expect certain things to happen to it and they expect it to have certain things and that you could 51:00control their thinking about them because it is a photograph instead of a painting. You're guided and channeled all these various lines by the prejudices you have in coming to look at them in the first place. You see a painting and you're not that all bought upon the fact that it's blue if it's cold and orange if it's warm and so on and so forth. You might like to change that idea and you 52:00may very well be able to change that idea. But when you bring a photograph to a person he knows it's a photograph and knows it's of something, and he knows he could have been there; he knows he could have accepted that. He can't accept a Gauguin in green hair and red face, for instance. He has to-- he will accept a photograph of that same person because it's a photograph. So, you can use a lot of other things, and once he recognizes that it's a photograph, he's going to accept no focus, or double exposure, or this, that or the other, blurry or whatever the thing might be, motion and so forth, because it is a photography 53:00and he knows it had to happen and this makes it, yea, more important to him for that reason.
Andrews: But it's happening for the same reason that Gauguin made the hair greenand the face red, because you willed it. You put those things together. You know, you assembled the mask, the child, the flag, the, you know, the background. But what about the area, the reason you selected the background of these maybe less conscious level, the intuitive, whatever it was that made you select that particular area, what maybe that adds a dimension of the photography that isn't as conscious as bringing in the flag and the mask. You see what I'm getting at? Maybe that is saying something about you or your photograph that you're not even entirely aware of.
MEATYARD: I think I sort of see what you're getting at.
Andrews: I'm only, you know, exploring the idea.54:00
MEATYARD: Yes, I think a thing could be so, like that. I was trying to think ofsome specific examples. More or less, I would use the background and a person with masks in front of it. Well, first of all, we're skipping from one point about that specific thing, about masks and so forth. I was more or less generalizing before. Anything could be there, whether it's a twig pointing water action, or a squiggle of light on water, or whatever. The person has to believe that it's there because it is a photograph, whereas, if it were colored, he could say, "Well, he just made that up; there is no such thing in the world as 55:00that. That's his idea. If he wants to be crazy, that's his business. Otherwise, I don't have to believe him." Here, if it's a photograph of such a thing then they have to believe it, whether they want to or not. They have to say such a thing was so. It's only the people that are so far advanced, that have to know why was it so, or that's a case where maybe too much education gets in the way of asking what's done in a vein so that they reject it because it was overly apparent to them that it was a photograph. That's probably why these people make the painting and silk screening and so forth, and the blobby things that I don't agree with. Well, I agree with the images; but I don't agree with their methods of attaining their images. I can like their results without having to like how they did it, but that's sort of the same thing; they like maybe some of my 56:00results but don't like me making them straight through the camera. They would have rather I'd painted it with a silk screen or something.
Andrews: Is this believability-- is this why, part of your belief in doing itthrough the camera and not in the darkroom?
MEATYARD: I think so. It is a straight thing that they can believe. I don'tthink that there's anybody in the world that can-- oh, there are people that have never seen a picture of themselves or a picture, period, and so on and so forth. With very little education people will very rapidly be able to recognize their photograph, a black and white photograph. This is where, then with a minimum amount of education, you can start believability to work for you. In the masks specifically-- I use masks and dolls and symbols to non-particularize 57:00people. If I were not to use those things, the world would be so tired-- and I would have probably quit photography long ago-- of seeing my wife and kids and close friends over and over again in photographs, that they would be named. And when you name something, other things are associated with that name. If you have a picture of John Jones here, you see that enough times, well you know which John Jones it is, and whereas if one time it has this mask and another time another mask and another time a piece of plastic or this time he might not even be there; there's a doll there instead. They're just people, the essence; the 58:00hint, aroma of having a person, a human being in the picture area which stands for an entirely different thing than having a particular human being in the picture. You have a universal person in the picture. It has a different connotation than having a particular person and that's why I've used those things for years and years; to make them less particular. I use the same four or five or six people oodles and millions-- practically millions of pictures, and--
Andrews: What I was thinking is, if the individual people in the picture become59:00less particular, what happens to the mask? Doesn't that become more significant perhaps you--
MEATYARD: Well, it could, if you used it to portray one specific sort of thing.This has been a thing lately on the West Coast not in photography, but in... what's it-- a mask that looked like Richard Nixon. People get lots of kicks out of going around looking like-- six people walking down the street looking like Nixon. That's been done for everybody that comes along; Kennedy had a big bunch of masks and so forth. If you use a person that's known, a particular face, a visage that is known this could happen, up to a point. And that is the point that with the mask on, no matter what the mask is, I don't try to hide the fact that it's a mask, and I could do the same thing and use the same mask all the 60:00time. You don't know the difference between the mask and what's underneath it. You recognize it as being a mask but it's on top of something else. Whatever else that's underneath could be your mother or your father or me or anybody else in the world and you wouldn't know the difference for sure. You might think you knew, but you wouldn't know for sure who was under there.
Andrews: No, you'd know some things. You'd know it was a child, possibly;whether it was a boy or a girl.
MEATYARD: By size, maybe, but you could fake that. You could have a dwarf forthis, depending on how... you could have a man on his knees, like it was a child or a different dress and so on and so forth.
Andrews: Well, supposing I'm looking at one, of your pictures of children withmasks on and-- would I be reading, it incorrectly to see a small, and what I 61:00would consider rather innocent, body, and a grotesque mask on top of it?
MEATYARD: Right, that's no problem, but you wouldn't know which child it was.
MEATYARD: And another way, you wouldn't know for sure that it was a child unlessall the evidence was on the surface that it was a child. There are ways that you could hide it enough that even a true reading photograph, by dress and so on and so forth; they do it all the time in movies and round about by costuming people and having them walk on their knees and so on and so forth that things are not as they seem. Yes, you can believe this is so and this is what's there for the most part, but still there's that one little thing that isn't so about it. 62:00There's an amount of non-believability that can be attained there. This-- I've done several series where I took pictures of my sons. Along I Walk is one series. It's a long a brick wall and every few feet, I made another picture. It's staying the same distance from the camera, same attitude, same this, same that. The only thing different in each section is a different mask on his face, and each time, each picture, the mask in one way changes the whole attitude of the scene. The background's changing and the mask is changing but the person is 63:00the same, or the indications that the person is the same there, but at the same time, you're not particularly sure that it was the same person all the time. That it has changed, gone through enough facets of background changing and mask changing attitude you had about this, from an old woman mask to a pure white mask to a grotesque mask to a clear see through mask, a blurry head in one instance. You're not sure what's-- that it is the same person all the time. The outer surface depicts what the thing is underneath. That changes the picture to be seen.
Andrews: The thought occurs to me that actually that's what happens in life. I64:00mean you're-- you change your own mask and all that according to what your inner condition is, although it may be an imperceptible change and if you say, record that photographically, very carefully, say one individual, your wife maybe or someone you're very close to, that you might be accomplishing a very similar thing of the personal mask.
MEATYARD: There's a number of books by a number of writers on how things aremasked and how masks are done. I've read some but I haven't read all of them by any means. All about faces but that sort of thing has never really been an influence on me other than that-- the main reason is I've used them to make a particular person less particular and more universal. You see, sometimes 65:00wherever I want the feeling of a human being-- this has a great deal to do with a picture whether you're making-- I'll take a picture of this wall; it's one thing and you add a feeling of humanness in it and that makes a lot of difference. You couldn't put a fish up there and get the same feeling as if you had a doll up there. The feeling of having something that represents life rather than non-life is important in a lot of my pictures. I don't know if you've seen any where I've used dolls, but I've used dolls a number of times in conjunction with masks and instead of, as I said, instead of people and along with people. 66:00They do sort of the same sorts of things. I used them in sculptures for the very same reason that they are people and belong. Moving slightly on other series that I've used, in no particular order-- You know how you do things with multiple exposure. I do things in nature, I do things more or less along a sort of straight portrait kind of line, environmental portrait sort of thing. I do a whole lot of abstracted pictures; back when I was interested in that with lights on water. It makes little speckles and at one stream in particular I made most of the pictures. But I think it was just a particularly good stream. It had a 67:00good width and you could get around about and so forth. Light was usually... something could be used there. Light changes all the time, but with those I would make pictures. After a while I got so that I would actually plot them out ahead of time by the use of multiple exposure, a moving camera and a light spectrum moving down stream as the sunlight is shining upon it. And whether the camera is at one part of focus or another would make the little dots either finer, sharper or bigger, blobbier. The more out of focus it was, the more out of focus the one end than the other. Say your sharp is in the middle. One would be one way and one would be another way and all of those make different sorts of pictures. Well, I would then take an idea of what I wanted in the picture. I 68:00would know-- I had made enough of them in the first place, just plain ordinary ones. I don't think there has been any year that I haven't done some of these, some from them. And I would move the camera. And I would-- with a very slow shutter there'd be some light streaks back here. And then I'd, by having those be the things that were exposed for, the rest of the film would be black. Well, you go back and you draw in something down here and this would be filled in then. Then you come over here and you draw something in over in this section and that would be filled in so that you are actually drawing and constructing an abstracted picture all of your own. I don't know if Don has any of these, but I 69:00can show you some of these if you like.
Andrews: I was interested in--
MEATYARD: Some may make a pure pattern. I have done some that are, well not purepattern, but are basically pattern and then made to use other ways. As I said earlier, there are things that keep re-occurring and you never got through with them. You use one idea into another idea. Some of the later things I've been doing I got onto the idea of sounds-- sound in pictures-- in still pictures, and 70:00as a friend rightly pointed out after a while, sound was maybe stretching it a little far, although occasionally in some of them you would think you were hearing things. But it was more a matter of vibrations were coming from; it was this quivering that was coming from them to you that was setting up a vibration; in a few instances it might be construed as being sound. This grew out of multiple exposures that I'd worked with and another thing the masks and nature pictures and pattern, camouflage grew into the things I'm doing lately with... out in the woods with some pictures that are just straight photographs but it's through a dichotomy of scale, a look and appearance about them that's wholly 71:00weird and the splotches of light. The scene is here in this splotch of light, round and about.
Andrews: You've used the word, not today, but I think I've read the word"surreal" in connection with your work. Do you think of yourself as a surrealist?
MEATYARD: Well, not in that source-- oh, I guess early in the years I wasconcerned with that and probably with making some things like that, but that word to me should be spelled "sur-Real" meaning more real than real, meaning super real, and this also reflects back to this thing I said earlier, this 72:00belief that because it's real you can make it what the painting surrealists really wanted people to feel about their paintings; that is was super-real. In this respect photographs whips painting right down the line, because it is the only thing that can actually take advantage of reality like this and the present these sur-real -- the more real than real -- to people, because it's trading on this fact that it's real in the first place. Then if it's unbelievably real, it becomes super-real or another kind of super real, better than real-- also can be, I think, so heartfelt that you almost can get a pang of compassion for the thing. It has to do with a super reality also and these are aspect of it that photography has better than other art forms and with these things that I've 73:00been-- that and these other things that I mentioned just recently here, seconds, minutes ago, led me to the belief that photography is closer to poetry, written poetry, than it is to any other part of the art world, including the visual art. That is has more to do with the poetic word, written and spoken word, and closely allied to some music, than it does with visual imagery. And if there's anything that maybe ties all of them in some ways it's this rather than any other art media. Photography is the one that binds all of them to and takes from all of them, and binds them together. It's there, in my pictures, I orchestrate 74:00them and I make symphonies out of them. I believe in packing lots of things into a picture by using visual media or signally, symbolically pointing here, there to light, dark, in and out, movement, so on and so forth. Now, you can just make your eye play a song and-- on this thing practically repeat it time after time after time. Ideally, of course, to a certain educated person and the more educated, the more he would be able to play and participate in this photographic game or symphony or whatever it is. But everybody has that chance. Everybody has that ability and if they'd recognize it, more of them could see that there and down here and what they saw would mean something to-- and they would begin to be able to hear notes and words and things-- begin to get visual patterns and this would come out of them. It would be really strange to see what would ever happen 75:00if the ability were that you could take a super educated person and make a movie for this super educated person with super educated frames, what that would do-- on top of where each frame was a really intricate thing going on and it would have a little change here and here and here and here, and run that through his head. He'd be a raving idiot, I think, after a while.
Andrews: How much could he grasp?
MEATYARD: Well, except-- are you familiar with the name Stan Brakhage and hismovies? He's a friend of mine, lives in Colorado. He's probably the most 76:00avant-garde of the movie makers-- he's not a gimmicker like Andy Warhol and this kind of people-- that they're trading on... he makes movies and teaches movie making... that are just completely torturous to most people to look at. They're really far, far out: a lot of them are in color and they are colors that you wouldn't want to have anything to do with; you wouldn't want to touch them with a ten foot pole. But-- oh, some of them are four, five, six hours long-- and your eye just can't take it. You sit there and close your eyes and open them again and take up a little bit more and they're meant to be that way. They're meant to be that way in that things are repeated and things are done in different ways. In fact, he says that if you want to doze off for ten or fifteen minutes during the picture that you won't miss anything in the picture, in fact, if you want to go out and get a beer and come back in, that you won't 77:00necessarily miss anything; that you'll pick it up later on. Your eye just can't sit there and take all that. It's being bombarded by little bits and pieces and so and so forth... of picture-- he uses multiple exposures and cut up pieces and all kinds of things that are really strange and yet-- well, none of mine are anything like that. He's working closer, although not in the same way as what I was talking about, if a movie was made like this-- all this other imagery would be ten times harder to see than what his are right now. His are more abstracted. Let's see, we were-- a fair amount of gabbing along there on some things; to some point, I think. Let's see where we were-- we went to '58 to no focus in 78:00Indiana, right? Now we're up here to-- '59 was Tulane University, New York Times Review-- I mentioned that earlier. In '59 I was also published in Aperture, a long article in Aperture, which was seven four. I'm sure you have a copy of that. I was also kind of serious, kind of different-- evidently, too much for them, and I did, in the Louisville Courier-Journal on the hunt races, chasing hounds series of pictures and-- well, the only remarks I got about them for the 79:00magazine were that they were a little too strange for the people that were familiar with hunt races, evidently too far above them. In 1960 I was published in Camera-- Camera Yearbook in England, and also had another session-- they came back for one more which was kind of weird, the Courier-Journal, on this family of musicians over in Beret, a man and his wife and nine kids who were all violin players.
Andrews: The Feldeys? I know the son here in Louisville.
MEATYARD: I did a story on them in the Courier-Journal in 1960. I was in80:00Aperture 82, also. In '61-- we were there before-- '61 was that University of Illinois show that I mentioned, the six photographers, skipping around that time, too-- in fact that was the first year that Coke, after he'd gotten his doctor's degree was teaching at the University of Florida and I had one man shows there in '62 and '63. Also in '61, I was in the magazine Art in America, an annual yearbook issue of new artists in the country. They do paintings and 81:00painters and that time they did-- it was the first time they did photographers. In '62 I had a one man show at Carl Siembab Gallery in Boston, mostly some of the strange kind of pictures up there; lot of hard times; one critic, Carl Chiarenza, a Boston photographer, gave these images a hard way to go. In '63 I had a one man show at Arizona State University and I had a-- was in Photography 82:00'63, an exhibition of George Eastman House. In '64, wasn't anything. In '65 I was in a one man show at the University of New Mexico; Coke was out there by that time. He was head of the art department and teaching photography. In '66 I was in a show; five people, at the University of Nebraska-- American Photography in the Sixties-- a comprehensive kind of show. In '67 I had a show at Speed 83:00Museum in Louisville, a one man show. I showed pictures that I had made of Tom Merton in Bella mine Gallery, the Merton Room; a one-man show at Doctor's Gallery here in Lexington. It's a doctor's building where they show each month some different, various art things. Let's see, there was also Photography in the Twentieth Century, a group show in the George Eastman House. In '68, Photography 84:00'68 that I put on here. I picked up Coke's idea on the show that was put on here by Camera Club, invited. My idea there was to invite three schools around the country plus the local people and we had a show at Transylvania University here. First three were George Eastman House and University of Indiana and University of New Mexico and then this year, Photography '70, I have Rhode Island School of Design and Ohio University and UCLA, California. And that's the last catalog that you saw.
Andrews: Do you have any more of those? I'd like to take a couple back with me,85:00one to put in the folder here and one for a friend who wanted one. MEATYARD: The-- '68-- in '68 I was also in a contemporary photograph show at UCLA, and another one from the University of Nebraska; five photographers, a traveling show. I had an article about me in the Kentucky Review, published at the University of Kentucky, here, done by Guy Davenport. I did an article about Coke in the next volume of Kentucky Review. In '69 I was in Light 7, a Minor White 86:00show at MIT; I was in Popular Photography Magazine, volume 65, an article about me, with pictures, by Jim Hall. '69 was the opening show at the Pasadena Art Museum, a big, fabulous museum they have out there. It's evidently going to be something.
Andrews: How did that come about?
MEATYARD: They were inviting-- they were giving, establishing a photographysection; they thought they had better-- and did you see the Rose Bowl Parade? 87:00
NR: This year?
MEATYARD: Yes, on television.
Andrews: I have seen it in the past on television.
MEATYARD: Well, the background for a big part of it was the Pasadena Art Museum.They were stationed across the street from it and it's really-- they didn't advertise the fact, they just mentioned it. They panned by at one time, and I saw it written on the side of the building; otherwise, I wouldn't have known it. But it's a really fantastic looking place and they invited people to submit and purchase around the country for their collection. And they put out a catalog. I believe it's at home. It has some certainly nice looking stuff in it. 88:00Photography '70 of this year, 1970, I did my show that I just put on, as I said. Also I have this show up at Athens, Ohio University-- first time photographs have ever been shown up there. This is the first time they've ever shown photographs other than in student group shows. 89:00
Andrews: Is there a catalog for that?
Andrews: How long will it be up>?
MEATYARD: Until the middle of May, about two or three weeks-- no, I'm just donewith putting on this show. They didn't have any money for a catalog and I didn't have any money for a catalog. Then, the end of this year I'm in Minor White's next show coming up at MIT; it's on being without clothes, pictures of nudes. Nude photography has not been a thing of mine, but I decided I would be in this 90:00one and I thought for about a year-- he lets you know well in advance when he's going to have a show so that you can prepare for it-- and I thought and thought and thought what I wanted to have and then I would up with a, I think, right good group of pictures. A friend of mine, and using several of my media-- motion and masks and so on and so forth. It's a picture that could well illustrate everything that Samuel Beckett has ever written. And it there's one that kind of sums up the whole thing and that would make a good cover for Samuel Beckett's Godot or Samuel Beckett's Molloy or Samuel Beckett's Malone or Samuel Beckett's this, or that or the other thing. So that-- I think it will be kind of 91:00successful in that respect. I don't know how may I've used, but I like this one especially. In the other shows, I don't know how many-- I don't like particularly-- oh, I've been in a number of magazines and this, that and the other thing, but I'm not a big fan of the camera magazines as such, had work in annuals, but I'd rather go the route of the catalogs and the shows than time annuals. I get in a few, but as I say, don't much care for them. I don't think 92:00they're appreciated enough by the people who do them. They're-- Jonathan Greene will shortly have published a book of my photographs. One of the fine writers of the world has a book out this month with my photograph of him on the back; developed the jacket design very handsomely.
Andrews: Who is that?
MEATYARD: Louis Zukofsky. Other than Ezra Pound, is the finest, oldest poetstill around. And this book with Wendell Berry on the Red River Gorge; my photographs and his writings. Part of his speech that he made at Earth Day the 93:00other day, which they say was a fine-- I didn't get to hear it; I'm here every hour in the day-- but it was the finest speech of all we had. A number of people, Senator Cook and Gene Mason who is a... one of the-- probably the second foremost zero population person in the country today, and teaches here in Lexington and others. Wendell's was the finest speech and it was-- they're going to have the whole thing published in the Blue Tail Fly, the next one out. It's the last one before next fall, taking off for the summer, but Wendell's whole speech is going to be published in that, whereas it didn't even get a mention in 94:00the Courier or in the Lexington paper. And I know it's fine even though I didn't hear it because part of it was based on one of the chapters that he did for our book. He's got three or four chapters done; I have copies of three of them and it's really beautiful.
Andrews: Are you working closely together? Are you trying to illustrate his textor how are you coordinating the two mediums; the writing and the photography?
MEATYARD: Well, we've both been there a number of times and he can write and Ican tell where he's writing about and I can photograph and he can almost tell where it is amongst all the woods that I've made a picture of. And now for over a year while I was photographing, he was out at Stanford. He had a leave of 95:00absence here and was a visiting professor out at Stanford in creative writing, and so he was just working form my photographs entirely-- that part of it. Well, what I tried to do was to do in black and white what some of-- the Sierra Club color things are right fine pictures. There's nothing the matter with them, I just don't like color. Oh, there's no real prejudice, it's the reason why, I'm steps remove them from and "can't do" not enough control and so forth, even though some of the new colors are getting more and more so like that-- they're still a long way from what you could do with black and white, making things 96:00believable out of it. But trying to do a thing kind of like some of these Sierra Club things in black and white. I like the way they feel; I have compassion for more or less straight photograph, for what's going on there-- what is there to be seen and such.
Andrews: It would be interesting maybe to get together an exhibit. There's beenso many photographers that have worked in there, special interests, a lot of publicity. I know a number of students; it would be interesting to see their different approaches to those same areas-- what was o interest to each one.
MEATYARD: They have some interesting looks.97:00
Andrews: I've never been down there. And another thing-- I was interested inperhaps having you tell about this, the influence of Zen. I noticed that some of your photographs reproduced in, I think, Aperture were entitled "Zen."
MEATYARD: They're all based on this core number of years and when I was teachinga small group of local photographers [Long blank space on tape.] Cranston Ritchie, who I helped to photo greatness and through Zen helped him through his fatal cancer trial. But he was a very good photographer very fine and through this group-- all the time I had meant for study in philosophy and I'd gotten interested in, as I say, back in college somewhere, but I almost came to the 98:00point where I could reach the peak of the Zen teaching with a certain amount of effort and believability here and still maintain it in a businesslike world. This was one of my ideas about it, that you could believe in this and you could attain Satori, as it were. This is a watered down version of-- in the manner of what the monks would actually get but attain it in the business world and still maintain your everyday existence--. Going to work every day and this, that and the other thing. And yet, if you have the feeling for this thing that you can 99:00stop and feel the ink flowing from your pen onto this piece of paper or participate in this petal dropping off this flower, the torture it feels to be torn away from the-- it just, well, just an everyday instance-- just concentrating on it and strangely enough, after I'd done it for some time, several years before I met Tom Merton. In talking with Tom about this-- and he was in deep study-- oh, being a Catholic monk he was a follower and a believer in some of the Zen teachings. Suzuki was a big friend of his and this was very 100:00true, for this sort of thing was entirety possible, any of these sorts of things. There was no reason that you had to be tucked away in Yazim or somewhere, or whatever their monastery here in the United States is called. Yazim, is that the name of it? Something like that.
Andrews: Isn't it right near Rochester?
MEATYARD: There is one there and there's also one out in the west, in themountains somewhere. But they-- just complete feeling and it can be illustrated I think somewhat best in the no focus and in some of the light motion things and in the nature things, like those few that I pointed out. You feel this twig reaching out and quivering at you and so on and so forth. I've always sort of maintained this whole kind of attitude and when I'm looking at pictures and when 101:00I'm seeing things and the most recent thing I've been doing-- some things on farm houses and old houses-- just the houses without any people anywhere. I think I haven't even been developing it yet, ten rolls-- I'll wait till I get about twelve or fourteen or sixteen and then develop it and print them-- and a few to go, but I have ten in there-- old farm houses. I think they're going to have a different look than any old farm houses I've done before, somewhat on the same basis, somewhat on this new light-dark camouflage method I was talking about. And so one thing just grows into another one in a situation. I don't ever-- I'm using a Rolleiflex now. I mentioned I was using one before an in between there I had a Mamiaflex with three lenses. One was-- one lens I never 102:00got around to using it and then I'd switch to another and use it, and say well, I'll use it for just a little while but I want to make a picture and then I'd put the other one on and use it until I got tired-- It might be a year later. I have a Rolleiflex again now. I got rid of the Mamiya and I have no need of any other sort of thing. I don't hop around from camera to camera and piece to piece. I don't like to use gimmicks with them, it's just a camera. It doesn't matter what the camera is. I know of a kid up in Ohio pinholes were part the camera course. He built the most fantastic series of pinhole cameras you've ever 103:00seen in your life. They have literature on them. They have telephoto lenses, they have telephoto cameras. They have got wide angle cameras, they have tripod bases built on to them you've got openings where you can tell when he was half way through the pinhole, when he'd be all the way through it, and it was a pinhole -- just a pinhole through a little piece of brass and he made some fantastic pictures out of it. One box was like yea long, telephoto with a great big long lens. His wide angle was a short camera like this. It's just a difference that you get away from the hold of the plane of the film. He had film holders, daylight that you could load in the daytime, put in the back and then 104:00pull it out, turn it over and put it back in again-- two pieces of film on it. This was really wild.
Andrews: What was his name?
MEATYARD: I've forgotten. I don't know.
Andrews: An undergraduate student?
MEATYARD: Yes. He got onto this thing, just-- assignment was to make them and hegot interested in building the cameras. Arnold Gasson, the professor, gave him a "B" out of the course because the pictures weren't too good--. The most fantastic kid.
Andrews: Maybe he'll be some kind of engineer.
MEATYARD: Not as imaginative, either-- right.
Andrews: I can kind of see a whole series of maybe tapes coming out of thisinterview; maybe periodically to see how your ideas change. I know Don is very 105:00interested in, you know, keeping a current file. We want to be sure and get all the things that you have written and some that have been written about you in our information file and keep up with your work and, you know, I'm sure that there's just so many different things to explore, the different ideas you had and things you've worked on. I don't think of anything right now.
MEATYARD: There's another show... yes-- there's a show that's going to betraveling in the summertime-- I'd almost forgotten-- from Nathan Lyon's new place; a show on forty of my pictures, forty-eight, I mean. He's going to send out around the country. I don't know-- that'll be in June or July when it starts. He's got the pictures. 106:00
Andrews: Are you currently teaching any?
MEATYARD: I'm teaching in the free university here, but I'm -- it doesn't quiteget the job done. When don't people feel that they have to attend... it doesn't cost them anything and somebody says let's go and do something instead, and they decide not to show, it makes it hard to-- you have people dropping out of formal class like that too, but you know for-- occasionally, but you can't continually keep going back and repeating and picking them up if you intend to get ahead any. You have to give up the free teaching idea and go to charging everybody something make it worthwhile. That paying makes them work. Free U is fine when it's just that. It's no formalism at all, but if there is a continuity in the 107:00program, you've got to have them there.
Andrews: You think maybe after the idea sort of sinks in that it might dawn onthem that if they were truly interested in the subject that they would have to participate? MEATYARD: It depends on--
Andrews: --for their own good, they'd get more out of it?
MEATYARD: It depends on the amount of dedication they have. I don't think they're--
Andrews: --I mean to cover something just because you paid for it is the wrongreason to go. You should go because your mind--
MEATYARD: Well, you should-- right, you should but you wonder how muchdedication they have in the first place. The only way you can get any teaching done is the way that they do it at a good school, Harvard and MIT and this, that 108:00and the other where the professors monitor a course in the first place, interviews the people and says, "Oh, I don't think you'll fit in with my teaching. Go find somebody else." And they actually do this.
Andrews: Hand pick the students--
MEATYARD: Thirty or forty people-- they're going to teach ten of them and theyrefuse thirty of them. So there you get people that you know are going to be dedicated. In some ways it's worthless to spend your time if you don't have sufficient number. The other way to do it is to have a big enough class that even on a nice spring day when everyone has spring fever, you're still going to wind up with twenty people there. That's kind of the new university concept in having a hundred people in the class; sometimes you'll have a few there. Indeed, 109:00one dedicated person will maybe be there all the time. You can plot it a little closer than that if you can interview everybody-- find who that person is.
Andrews: maybe we should take a look at your pictures and--
MEATYARD: How can you bear to be missing the horse races in Louisville?
MEATYARD: They open today.
Andrews: Oh, it doesn't even--.
[end of tape]