American portrait photographer Mike Disfarmer (1884-1959) operated a photography studio in Heber Springs, Arkansas, where for years locals and tourists lined up to have their picture made. Disfarmer used glass plate photography long after it was obsolete; when thousands of these glass plates were discovered in the 1970’s, his photographs were acknowledged as a stunning achievement for their exquisite artistry, their profound empathy for their subjects, and their invaluable documentation of a way of life that has all but vanished. Disfarmer recreates a visceral sense of Mike Disfarmer’s interior and exterior worlds, illuminating the contradictions in the life of this American hermit and portrait artist. The production features the American style of “tabletop” puppetry, projections of Disfarmer’s photographs and images produced by old optical techniques, and a haunting score derived from antique recording technologies like Edison Wax disks.
The New York Times called Disfarmer, "a quiet tour de force," continuing, "This intimate portrait also offered a larger meditation on the act of creation, both through its craft and content. The tender devotion of master puppeteers to their puppets is a deeply human endeavor. At its most sublime this relationship acquires a spiritual dimension, and such was the case here."
The Washington Post put Disfarmer at the top of their "Best Of" list for 2009 saying: "This deeply poignant mystery tale featured a cranky and insistently human puppet. In choreographer-turned-puppeteer Hurlin's hands, Arkansas' nearly forgotten portrait photographer Mike Disfarmer became an unforgettable American hero.“
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