Thursday, September 10, 2009

Duane Michals

Duane Michals is a photographer that I really admire. I admire him for more than just his photography, even though that is initially what drew me in.

Duane Michals does various different forms of photography, and they all have a sense of grace to them.

There is just this tranquil sense about the photographs.

In every photograph, there is a certain sense of intimacy, one that I can not even grasp because a lot of his subjects were just passing people. He has a unique eye for new angles with every photo.
Photos from above are done often, but something about the angles of the girls pulls your eye in. Makes you stop to reconsider the form their bodies are shifted in.

One quote from him that mirrors this is found in the book: The portraits of album. He says, " Each person should be a different solution. The photographer should approach each sitting as if he had never taken a portrait before". This concept, this idea, is very evident throughout his work. Another line he speaks is, " I always look mean when photographed, yet I am much nicer than my face. I am not just this chin, these wrinkles, this nose. Do not be deceived by my face". I believe that insights like this reveal the very core of his photographs and the way he approaches his work. He tends to photograph people in their environment.

This last one really moves me. I can not even begin to explain why or how. I hate that all of these photos I had to scan from the various books I've read on him this last week.. But in the real photograph there is a tiny bottle on the bed. Something about the way the light hits the man... The strange position of the bottle in the center of the photo and isolated on the bed.. The way the sheets look worn in.. But not pulled back.. The gaze in the man's eye. There are so many possible answers for what this photograph could mean. It leaves one questioning.. And at the same time it does not feel staged at all.. I'm not sure if it was or not but given the typical nature of his photographs and his photographs in this particular series I would argue that it is not. If it is not, what kind of moment, have we been allowed to view through this image? I don't know.. So many thoughts.. So many questions.. Such a sense of grace.

Another reason I love his work, is because I can relate to a lot of this thoughts and emotions easily. Some of his quotes are so telling of how I feel, of how I think.. Put into more eloquent writing.

This is a quote I will leave on, "As I age, while I still have time, I yearn to know now, more than ever, my true self, that random and illusive thing decorated with personality. We believe ourselves to be this kaleidoscope of passions and distractions. We are a brilliant and unknown moment,suspended between memory and anticipation, anxious in our uncertainties, and doomed to fade with our consciousness. How can such a mystery be photographed? What is left for us but amazement? "

I truly believe that art of any kind, can push one to know themselves better. I spend an increased amount of time alone as I grow older, and with less and less distractions when possible, because I understand the value of knowing who I am. I am inspired by his work because I feel that in his work, he did just that. He discovered his passions. His interest. His being. His purpose.


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  2. I agree that Michal's strongest work tends to be the most mysterious, the most suggestive, and open-ended. The use of light is perhaps the most powerful, yet under recognized, tool of the photographer. When the light is right, we simply *respond* as viewers.

    Another photographer who seeks out this suggestive mystery, although in a perhaps more romantic fashion, is Emmet Gowin. In some respects, Gowin is more "classic" in that he builds singular, momentous images. Michal's images are much more casual in tone. Also, check out the more recent Gregory Crewdson.