After graduating from the university high school of Illinois State University in 1943, Ralph Eugene Meatyard entered the U.S. Navy and spent one year in a pre-dentistry course at Williams College as part of the Navy’s V‑12 program. At the end of World War II, he met and married an optician; soon after, he received his own optometrist’s license.
Meatyard purchased his first camera from the optometry shop where he worked in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1950; he soon became a very serious amateur photographer, joining the Lexington Camera Club and the Pictorial Division of the Photographic Society of America in 1954 and exhibiting his photographs with both groups. Meatyard’s early photographs contain all the visual elements of his mature work: blurred images, fabricated scenarios, masks and dolls, and a pervading dark humor. He eventually opened his own optometry shop in 1967, which doubled as an exhibition space; there Meatyard hung the work of well-known photographers like Emmit Gowin, as well as his own work. He died in Lexington in 1972.
National Museum of American Art (CD-ROM) (New York and Washington D.C.: MacMillan Digital in cooperation with the National Museum of American Art, 1996)