Ralph Eugene Meatyard (1925–1972) was born in Normal, Illinois and lived in Lexington, Kentucky, where he made his living as an optician. In 1954, Meatyard joined the Lexington Camera Club. Cranston Ritchie and Van Deren Coke, both members of the club, became important mentors and inspiring models in Meatyard’s work. Working outside of the photographic mainstream, Meatyard experimented with multiple exposures, motion blur, and other methods of photographic abstraction. Meatyard’s photographs often include family members enacting symbolic dramas, often set in abandoned places. His final series, The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater, completed shortly before he died in 1972, pays homage to his beloved family and talented friends.
In 2005–2006 an exhibition of over 150 of his photographs was shown at the International Center of Photography in New York and at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson. In 2010, his work was included in an exhibition at the Pavillon Populaire, Galerie d’Art Photographique de la ville de Montpellier in France. In 2011, The Art Institute of Chicago organized the exhibition, Ralph Eugene Meatyard: Dolls & Masks, accompanied by a publication and subsequently traveling to the deYoung Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His works are held in many major museums including the Art Institute of Chicago, Metropolitan Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, George Eastman Museum, J. Paul Getty Museum, Yale University Art Gallery, and numerous others. Monographs include A Fourfold Vision, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, and The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater and Other Figurative Photographs, among others.