Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name



Fine Arts

Degree Program

Art (Creative) and Art History with a concentration in Critical and Curatorial Studies, MA

Committee Chair

Reitz, Chris

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Kim, Jongwoo Jeremy

Committee Member

Kim, Jongwoo Jeremy

Committee Member

Sholis, Brian

Author's Keywords

Ralph Eugene Meatyard; photography; family; the uncanny; Sigmund Freud; Pierre Bourdieu


This thesis explores the ways in which photographs by Ralph Eugene Meatyard provoke the uncanny—or Das unheimlich as Freud originally wrote in 1919—by breaking from conventions of mid-twentieth century family photography often utilized to establish and maintain genealogical unity. Meatyard’s photographs of his family and friends are accentuated by blurring techniques, prolonged exposures, and the incorporation of dime-store masks, and as a result depict moments when reality is disrupted by the return of repressed material from childhood. For a multitude of reasons, Meatyard’s photographs elicit comparisons to Surrealist photography as well as certain American modernists who also explored the notion of identity, such as Duane Michals, Van Deren Coke, and Minor White. Although he rarely left his home of Lexington, Kentucky, Meatyard was aware of the camera’s widespread use to produce and retain social myths. His photographs unveil these myths by incorporating elements that align with psychoanalytic theory.