Duane Michals' photography gives me an Art-On. Very much a favorite at Post Apocalyptic Bohemia, Duane Michals is not just an amazing photographer, he is truly an original. We have a coffee table book of his photographs which I will get out & peruse, because today is his birthday. This will make for a lovely evening with a glass of whiskey. Michals also produced the art for The Police album Synchronicity in 1983, so that album can be the soundtrack for my viewing pleasure.
Michals became a photographer as a matter of need. All his best impulses grew out of the need to express something from the intangible. Largely self-taught, his work is noted for its innovation & artistry. His work is well known for its insistent, & often humorous, use of the narrative series. Many of his pieces works actually incorporate handwritten text right onto the images. Michals has a fascination with making tangible the intangible realm of love, death, dreams, & wishes. His works deal with human sexuality, both straight & gay, but always in a dreamy, droll, divine & rather decorous manner.
Michals: “The keyword is having something to express. When you look at my photographs you are looking into my mind.”
Michals: "I am not bothered by those pesky questions dealt with by most photographers- how can I get this model to smile without showing her teeth? Does this house look better with or without the little red wagon in front? So think hard, think deep & ask new questions. As a photographer, how can you present the nature of existence & the drama of the human condition? How will you define beauty & ugliness in visual terms? What is death & why is mankind fixated on rational explanations of the afterlife."
"When people ask me what I am, I tell them I'm the artist formally known as a photographer, I am an expressionist & by that I mean I'm not a photographer or a writer or a painter or a tap dancer, but rather someone who expresses himself according to his needs."
Michals grew up in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. In 1953 he received a BA from the University of Denver. In 1956 he went on to study design at the Parsons School of Design with a plan to becoming a graphic designer. He did not complete his studies
In 1958 while on a trip in the USSR, he discovered his interest in photography. The photographs he made during this trip became his first exhibition held in 1963 at the Underground Gallery in NYC. Michals settled in the city in the late 1950s & became known as a commercial & fashion photographer, working for Esquire & Mademoiselle, & he covered the filming of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Great Gatsby (1974) for Vogue. He worked for Dance Magazine & After Dark. In 1968 Michals was hired by the government of Mexico to photograph the 1968 Olympic Games. In 1970 his works were shown at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
He does not have a studio. Instead, he takes photographs of people in their environment, which was a contrast to the method of other photographers of his time, Richard Avedon & Irving Penn.
Michals has been in a relationship with his partner, an architect he met at the gym, for 51 years. Though he has not been involved in gay civil rights, his photography has regularly addressed gay themes & quietly added to the pantheon of 20th century gay imagery.