From a Studio in Arkansas, a Portrait of America

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Dead for half a century, Mike Disfarmer, the eccentric portrait photographer from Heber Springs, Ark., has drawn modest yet respectful attention in recent decades. From the 1920's to the 50's, he photographed a steady stream of townspeople in his Main Street studio in an American Gothic style of portraiture that was singularly his own. Now, a trove of recently discovered vintage prints is generating renewed interest in his work.

In a hush-hush entrepreneurial race to the finish, two photography collectors from New York have separately bought up about 3,400 vintage prints stashed away in the attics and basements of relatives of Disfarmer's subjects.

The only prints of his work previously known to exist were made posthumously from about 3,000 glass negatives found in his studio when he died in 1959.

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