|Photo of Thomas Merton by Ralph Eugene Meatyard|
"Gene Meatyard's photographs, with their use of chance, motion, and multiple exposures, mirror the ever-changing ephemeral nature of the Self, which we normally fool ourselves into imagining as fixed and stable. When we open a book of photographic portraits, we are used to looking for how the photographer has captured the essence of his subject in a given image.
These pictures don't do that.
Rather than gratify what Merton called "the hunger of having a clear satisfying idea of who and what he is and where he stands," they subvert the whole notion of Essence, or of a Self to be captured. While some of the photographs tantalize us by catching Merton in what we imagine to be an especially revealing or even "spiritual" moment, others offer a blur, an awkward or even apparently unexpressive scene. Taken together, they present the lesson that Merton, like all of us, like any moment, cannot be grasped or fixed by an image, whether photographic or mental.
Anything you can grasp is not it.
Go after the Essence and you'll just come up with another moment's mask. (Ask Lucybell Crater.)"
- Barry Magid, from the Preface to "Father Louie, Photographs of Thomas Merton by Ralph Eugene Meatyard. 1991 Timken Publishers